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Lord Mayhew: My Lords, I am much obliged. Will the noble Earl take this opportunity to surpass all his many predecessors in recent years and answer the question that was put to all of them but which never received an answer? What exactly is a minimum deterrent? It is quite simple. Everyone agrees that a minimum deterrent is a capability of inflicting unacceptable damage on any possible adversary. To any common sense, 50 warheads is more than enough to inflict unacceptable damage on any possible adversary, and yet once again he has said that we need four times 96 warheads. Why should one need 10 times more than the minimum? What is meant by a minimum deterrent which carries 10 times more missiles than necessary?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, will not need me to tell himindeed this has been mentioned often this afternoonthat we live in a rapidly changing world and the risks and dangers associated with the international scene change month by month. The circumstances and configurations which determine our assessment of a minimum deterrent also change. What we have to do is to ensure that the deterrent that we have takes account of the worst case.
Lord Chalfont: My Lords, is it not also true that the calculation of a minimum deterrent is nothing like as crude as that put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, when he picks a number out of the air? It is a function of a number of calculations such as the reliability of the missiles and the warheads, the number of delivery systems that can be on patrol or on deployment at any one time, and the efficacy of the possible defences of an enemy. It is only when all those functions and calculations have been made that we know what a nuclear deterrent is. I hope that the noble Earl will not seek to answer a simple question with a simple answer.
Earl Howe: My Lords, I entirely associate myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. I believe he has rightly drawn the House's attention to the complex nature of the assumptions which underpin our assessment of the nuclear deterrent. The noble Lord, Lord Williams, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, devoted some emphasis to the Government's nuclear policy and the question in particular of non-proliferation. The unanimous decision to extend the non-proliferation treaty indefinitely is of great importance and will make the world a safer place. It sends a clear signal to all proliferators, or would-be proliferators, and to the tiny minority of countries that have not yet signed the treaty.
The noble Lord, Lord Williams, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, mentioned Article 6. The United Kingdom is committed to nuclear disarmament and complete and general disarmament under Article 6 of the NPT. However, it is perfectly clear that that is not a realistic short or medium-term aim. It is perhaps a truism, though nevertheless worth mentioning, that nuclear weapons technology cannot be disinvented. In a nuclear-free world there would always be a risk of a new confrontation generating a destabilising nuclear arms race. The potential for proliferation would always be present. The international community would need robust solutions to such problems before complete nuclear disarmament could be a reality.
However, we have made clear that a world in which the US and Russian nuclear forces were measured in hundreds rather than thousands would be one in which the UK would respond to the challenge of multilateral talks on the global reduction of nuclear weapons. A number of noble Lords have referred to nuclear testing. We are playing a positive and constructive part in negotiations for a comprehensive test ban treaty. We note the target set at the NPT conference to complete negotiations by the end of 1996. We are working energetically towards that aim. Let me say that the United Kingdom has no current plans to resume testing. However, I can reassure my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter that, in common with the other nuclear weapons states, we are considering how best to fulfil our requirement to ensure the safety and reliability of our nuclear weapons under a comprehensive test ban treaty.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, questioned the motives and the rationale of the French in their announcement that they intend to resume testing. The French decision to resume testing is a matter for the French Government. The important step is to conclude a comprehensive test ban treaty. We welcome President Chirac's commitment to that goal by the NPT target of 1996.
The second major theme which emerged from this debate was the size and composition of the Army following restructuring. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and others dwelt on that important theme. The restructuring of the Army which began in 1991 is now complete, with the exception of changes in the Brigade of Gurkhas to which I shall refer in a moment. The size of the Army is currently around 116,000. It is expected to rise to 117,000 by April 1996 and will reduce to about 114,000 by the end of the decade after implementation of the Defence Costs Study and our withdrawal from Hong Kong.
Neither my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter nor, I trust, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, can expect us to maintain the Army at the same size as was necessary during the Cold War. However, I say to both noble Lords and to my noble friend Lord Vivian, that the size of the Army should not be regarded as being subject to a manpower ceiling or as being immutably fixed. Its size will vary according to circumstances and the judgment of senior commanders.
Furthermore, the numerical strength of the Army should not be regarded as the primary measure of front-line strength. The infantry currently has a small shortfall, together with the Royal Armoured Corps and the Royal Artillery, but overall the Army is not undermanned. We are addressing the shortfalls with a vigorous recruitment campaign and efforts to improve retention.
My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter picked me up on my statement that we are immeasurably safer than we were during the Cold War. That was not meant in any way to sound complacent. It was simply a suggestion that, as I expect my noble friend will agree, the risks and uncertainties that we face today are on an entirely different scale from the massive threat that we and our allies faced from the Warsaw Pact. He will recognise that the Government had to restructure our Armed Forces to match the reduced threat. In doing so we have taken full account of the increased instability that followed the end of the Cold War. The strength of our forces reflects the risks that we face. In that context I should like to pick up a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. Our expenditure on defence is based on our needs and not on a predetermined level of gross domestic product.
My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, raised concerns about the Gurkhas. On 16th June my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the Sultan of Brunei together signed an agreement extending the stationing of Gurkhas in the sultanate for a further five years from 1998. That is very welcome news. The early signature of the agreement will allow us to make longer term plans. The retention of the garrison will mean that there
My noble friend Lord Annaly praised the role of our reserve forces. There is an Oral Question on the Order Paper down for next week on this subject, but suffice it to say for the present that it is appropriate to flag up the prospect of a new reserve forces Bill which we intend to introduce into Parliament at the earliest opportunity. We need such a Bill to bring the law on reserves up to date. The draft Bill was published for comment on 30th March. The consultation period lasted until 15th June. The proposals we have made include a new power of call out for peace-keeping, humanitarian and disaster relief operations.
Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for allowing me to intervene. He said that a draft Bill had been published. Would it be possible for the Opposition to have a copy of the draft Bill so that we can make our comments?
As I was indicating, the proposals in the Bill include a new power of call-out for peace-keeping, humanitarian and disaster relief operations, new categories of reserve and a range of safeguards for reservists and their employers. We had over 500 written responses from employers, reservists and other interested parties. We are now taking stock of the responses, which are generally supportive of the proposals.
My noble friend Lord Vivian expressed worries about the reorganisation of defence medical services. The Defence Costs Study recommendations are being implemented to schedule. We aim to complete all phases by April 1996. As the noble Lord will know, the selection of Haslar as the tri-service corps hospital was based on the overall defence interest. Haslar is the most cost-effective choice of the sites available to us.
The costs of expansion at Haslar are estimated at about £12 million, with possibly some further limited expenditure on extra accommodation. Those costs should be seen in the context of the anticipated savings of at least £55 million resulting from the full implementation of the DCS reorganisation of defence medical services.
I cannot share my noble friend's fear that this is too far too fast. The new DMS structure meets the Armed Forces operational needs in full. The requirement for regular medical personnel in the three services to support the front line has changed little from previous plans. Most of those reductions have been found from the support area.
I believe that the future defence medical services will continue to provide a worthwhile and varied career. The new peacetime secondary care structure will provide a suitable training base for all service medical personnel.
Under this broad theme, it is perhaps appropriate to refer to the concerns raised by my noble friends Lord Vivian and Lord Ironside about the Bett review. The Government made clear in publishing Sir Michael's report on 5th April that they were doing so in advance of taking decisions on the report's contents. As noble Lords will know, it was a wide-ranging review which made 150 recommendations covering the whole field of service career and manpower structures and terms and conditions of service. We need to study them carefully, individually and collectively, before reaching decisions. That process is in train and the Armed Forces themselves are fully involved.
However, the studies will take time and will need to be developed into an overall strategy. As I have indicated, our aim is to have completed the work in time to make a definitive statement in spring of next year.
My noble friend Lord Lyell rightly emphasised the importance of effective training. Army training land continues to occupy about 60 per cent. of the defence estate. Major training areas are located at Salisbury Plain, Otterburn, Sennybridge, Stanford, Catterick and Dartmoor. In order to meet its changing needs, the Army has embarked on a £70 million programme to develop the infrastructure within existing ranges. That should go some way to meet over the coming years the shortfall in training capacity brought about largely as a result of the drawing-down of forces in Germany and the introduction of new and larger weapons systems.
The next theme to which I turn is the wider international one of Britain's role in NATO, a subject raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. The noble Lord also raised issues about Russia. My noble friend Lady Park spoke with her customary grasp of detail about the policy of Russia and its relationship with the UK and NATO. I shall not comment on all that has been said, but I can comment on the broad picture on NATO and the prospects for its enlargement.
At an extended meeting of NATO's North Atlantic Council on 31st May, the Russian Foreign Minister, Kozyrev, signified Russian acceptance of her individual partnership for peace programme and of a document on wider consultation arrangements. The UK welcomes those positive steps towards greater NATO-Russia understanding and agreement. NATO must maintain a united, constructive approach to Russia and explain how and why NATO has been changing since the end of the Cold War. We wish to build a robust means of consultation to ensure that Russia's legitimate security concerns are taken properly into account. The NATO/Russia relationship will take time to define. It is more important to focus on substance rather than form. We can decide the latterwhether to have a treaty or a charter, for exampleat a later date.
My noble friend Lady Park also referred to the role of the OSCE. We believe that the OSCE, with its 52 participating states, has an important role to play in the promotion of peace and stability in Europe. We seek to build on the success of the OSCE in setting standards in many areas of security, particularly human rights.
My noble friend Lord Ironside raised pertinent concerns about Britain's defence identity. Britain is at the heart of European defence. Our proposals for the future, which were launched by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on 1st March, have been welcomed by our European partners and NATO allies. NATO has been the most successful defensive alliance in history. It must remain the bedrock of Europe's security and its capabilities should not be duplicated. But we also need a stronger Western European Union so that European countries can take on their proper share of the burden and act effectively in situations where the US may not wish to be involved.
There is no need for Euro-armies. A separate European force would be wasteful and might diminish NATO. Let me say to my noble friend that there is no question of the Western European Union being integrated within Community competence and no place in defence for the European Commission and Parliament. Decisions on possible deployment of armed forces across Europe must be taken by national governments.
Before I address the third major theme, let me turn to some detailed issues. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, devoted much of his speech to the subject of ballistic missile defence. He will wish to know that the UK pre-feasibility study is proceeding according to programme and the contractor's report is expected in May 1996. The study will tell us about options, performance criteria, timescales, costs and technical risks. Separate work is in hand internally to assess the threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles and how the emerging risks that that presents are likely to impinge on UK interests, not only at home but in the context of our obligations to NATO and wider security interests. This will help us to determine our priorities. Let me stress that we recognise the concerns raised by noble Lords on the issue.
My noble friend Lord Vivian raised doubts about the permanent joint HQ. The permanent joint HQ will improve the way in which joint operations are commanded and conducted. In addition, the creation of a permanent joint HQ offers real manpower and monetary savings in the medium to long term.
My noble friend Lady Park asked about the cost to the MoD of the difficulties experienced by Airwork Limited in its contracts to modify Tornado F3 and Hercules aircraft. I hope she will allow me to write to her on the point.
The final theme to which I return is the abiding and natural preoccupation of your Lordships this week; that is, Bosnia. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for the tributes that he paid. The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, spoke of the dangers to the eastern enclaves, particularly Sarajevo. The immediate
I found much with which to agree in the remarks of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig. The Government maintain that there can be no military solution. What we have to do is to intensify efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement. As I have indicated, we want UNPROFOR to stay. It has achieved a tremendous amount, but it can only operate with the consent of all parties. I say in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that if conditions continue to deteriorate and troops are placed in grave danger we may be faced with no alternative but to withdraw. But if we reach that point, let us be in no doubt, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, that this could have disastrous consequences for the region.
UNPROFOR will not be drawn into taking sides. It is a peace-keeping and humanitarian mission. UNPROFOR is not taking sides, and it is not fighting a war. The United Nations force is neither equipped not configured for peace enforcement. We will maintain our contribution to UNPROFOR for as long as the force can continue to carry out its mandate at an acceptable level of risk.
I can confirm that there has been a short delay to our deployment plans for the Rapid Reaction Force, to answer the question raised by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig. This has been because of complications involved in finalising the logistical arrangements for the deployment of 24 Brigade. The Ploce port authorities have agreed that the advance party can deploy. There are still some outstanding issues yet to be resolved, and discussions continue. But these will not delay deployment.
The noble and gallant Lord also asked about command arrangements. The command arrangements for the Rapid Reaction Force are quite clear. The force is part of UNPROFOR and under UN control. Overall command is held by the UN protection force commander, General Janvier. Lieutenant-General Sir Rupert Smith, as Commander UNPROFOR, is the immediate commander of the Rapid Reaction Force. The decisions on what tasks and missions the Rapid Reaction Force undertakes are a matter for the UN commanders on the ground.
Let me conclude where I started. In my opening remarks I paid tribute to our Armed Forces, as have many noble Lords. In this year of all years, we have occasion to remember with gratitude their past achievement in the cause of freedom and peace. Today, the excellence of our servicemen and women is recognised worldwide. In this country they are a focus for national pride. The 1995 Defence White Paper sets out this Government's commitment to them. Our Armed Forces can now look forward with confidence to a period of stability of policy and resources, allowing them to do an even better job for Britain during the closing years of this century and beyond.
The Bill renders unlawful certain kinds of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation; extends the functions and powers of the Equal Opportunities Commission to discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and for connected purposes.
There is little doubt that people who are homosexual, whether they are gay or lesbian, suffer discrimination. There is a substantial body of evidence now available to that effect. Not only Stonewall, the organisation that exists to publicise the concerns of homosexual and bisexual people, has produced evidence following a great deal of researchI shall deal with a great deal of that laterbut the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (NACAB) also has evidence of widespread discrimination.
The United Kingdom, however, does not have any legislation designed specifically to tackle discrimination against lesbians and gay men. Under existing employment legislation, there is nothing illegal about rejecting a job applicant on grounds of his or her sexuality. This has serious implications for lesbians and gay men in that it clearly gives some employers the freedom to exercise their prejudice.
Prejudice certainly exists. In 1993, Stonewall published a report entitled, Less Equal than Others, based on a survey of 2,000 homosexuals and their experience of discrimination at work. Of that group, 16 per cent. of the respondents had faced discrimination at work because of their sexuality; another 21 per cent. suspected that they had been discriminated against on similar grounds; and 48 per cent. had suffered harassment at work. Experiences included ostracism, threats of being "outed", blackmail, malicious jokes, threats, and sometimes actual physical violence. Forty-nine per cent. concealed their sexuality from some people at work.
A study by an independent research organisation, the Social Community Planning Research, indicated a similar pattern of discrimination. The SCPR also surveyed a representative sample of 600 heterosexuals. One in three said that they would be less likely to hire a gay or lesbian job applicant.
Perhaps I may quote a few cases from the research that I have seen. This is some of the research from NACAB. A respondent occupied a relatively senior position in local government. He has been "out"i.e. known as "gay" for about a year, but he has been openly told that he would not have been appointed to his previous job had it been known at the time that he was gay. He gained promotion because he had earned respect during the time that he was closeted; that is to say, when it was not known that he was homosexual.
The CAB evidence also contains instances of harassment at work. There are many cases but I shall quote just one. A CAB in Yorkshire reported a client who had experienced systematic abuse and other harassment from colleagues because he was gay. He was subjected to extreme verbal abuse and several instances of intimidation which threatened his personal safety. The client did not want to discuss the issue with his supervisor for fear of causing further ill feeling. Many more case histories feature in the excellent report produced by the independent research organisation to which I referred. About two-thirds of the homosexual respondents to that survey thought that there was a great deal of discrimination against gay men and lesbians. Almost all thought that there are employers who refuse jobs to homosexual applicants or sack homosexual employees and that there are landlords who refuse to rent accommodation to homosexual couples. Being refused a job or accommodation was thought to be more common than actually being dismissed.
As the law stands at present employers are perfectly entitled to reject a job applicant because he is gay, or even to have a policy of not employing lesbians or gay men. A lesbian or gay man refused a job on that basis has no redress. By contrast, employers are not allowed to refuse to employ people simply because of their race or their sex or, in Northern Ireland, their religion.
Unfair dismissal is not illegal. Lesbians and gay men who are dismissed have no redress unless they have been with the employer for two years and then they may not succeed in a claim for unfair dismissal since the EAT has held that employers may dismiss gay people on the grounds of potential client prejudice, even where that prejudice has no basis in reality.
Harassment is not illegal. Employers can be held vicariously liable for sex discrimination if they do not take steps to deal with sexual harassment. The same applies to racial harassment. But it does not apply to the harassment of lesbians and gay men.
Clearly there is a need for something to be done. NACAB believes that there should be legislation against discrimination. However, when Stonewall wrote to the then junior Minister at the Department of Employment to draw attention to the results of its research, the response was that the Government did not condone discrimination but had no plans to do anything about it.
I understand that the Government further claim that, although they condemn all forms of discrimination, there is no need to legislate further because of the protection offered by the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978. However, that only gives protection against unfair dismissal after two years' continuous employment. Legislation on sex and race discrimination gives truly comprehensive protection
The Government have argued that persuasion is better than legislation. Of course, persuasion is important. But, as the campaign on behalf of the disabled has shown, it is often not enough. Legislation plays a very important role in changing public perceptions. That is demonstrably true in the case of gender discrimination and, to a lesser extent, perhaps, in regard to race. I believe that the time has come to put legislation on the statute book that would give protection to that relatively small minority of people.
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