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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I must have missed it. As regards NATO enlargement, I follow my noble friend Lord Mayhew in expressing considerable doubt about the twists and turns of British policy. We have followed much too loyally the changes in American policy, being thoroughly in favour of rapid enlargement when the State Department and the Pentagon were in favour of that two years ago, and now being in favour of eventual enlargement because the Americans have gone cool on that.
It has been a saga of incoherence, muddle and confusion and now of German/American disagreement. If I understand the current German position correctly, it pushes for early NATO enlargement as a means of delaying the additional costs of European Union enlargement. If I understand the American position correctly, it is that they want to push for the two together because they know that we in Western Europe will pay more.
The British Government need to grip the NATO enlargement debate more openly, to engage more actively with our colleagues and to raise the awkward questions about having in the Czech Republic without Slovakia, of having in Hungary without Romania and undertaking some of the valuable work which the Hungarians and Romanians at the military level have been undertaking in the past three or four years, getting over their old potential rivalry. It is too late to stop the process of NATO enlargement. The slower it is engaged in the better and the more closely it is linked with enlargement of the European Union, which is fundamentally about the long-term security of Europe, the better.
Usefully, the defence White Paper says a great deal about partnership for peace; the value of those joint exercises, the re-education process and the socialisation process for the armed services of Eastern Europe, as was achieved with the Spanish armed forces after 1975. That helped to show those armed services that there is more to defence than holding down the population of their own country, that civilian control is not something which they should fear and that international co-operation is something in which they should engage. Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Park, that when I spoke last week to the Royal College of Defence Studies on the future of European security I was delighted to be contested in my analysis of Russia's relations with NATO by the Russian colonel who was taking part in the course. That seems to be a natural part of the way in which we try to bring the Russians into a dialogue with the NATO countries in which, I am happy to say, the British Government are already actively engaged.
I turn now to the defence budget itself. If we are, and if we accept that we are, within a situation in which none of us will spend more on defence, we must ask very awkward questions about balance. A number of participants in the debate have raised the question of the overstretch within the Army. None has said where we might find the extra resources for the Army. I suspect that part of the answer is that the Navy still reflects its cold war role more than it should; that we are still building a Navy to do convoy duty in the North Atlantic in order to provide American reinforcements in case of Russian invasion; and we are thinking about an oceanic navy when the requirements are much more likely to be for land operations within and around the European region.
It is very clear that reserves will be extremely important. The White Paper notes that there are more than 600 reserve troops in Bosnia at present. Therefore, again, any future government will have to spend more effort and money on ensuring that there are adequate reserves.
I have heard a number of people connected with the Armed Forces question whether or not we can sustain a long-term commitment in Bosnia where 10 per cent. of the Army is stationed currently simply because of the degree of overstretch which we have. Of course, Northern Ireland makes it worse.
In that respect, I ask the Minister whether there is any give in what is oddly called arms plots at page 76 of the White Paper. I always thought that that was to do with blowing up people but it is apparently to do with the circulation of whole regiments in the armoured corps and the infantry. There are those whom I know with the logistics corps and others who believe that a great deal of money and time and, therefore, men's time, could be saved by moving towards a corps basis for the infantry, away from the old regimental system. I believe that that is another area in which we need to look for further potential savings.
Perhaps I may say a few words about the very sensitive issue of equal opportunities which the White Paper raises at various points. It is remarkable how radically the service attitude to women has changed in the past five or six years and is still changing. Its attitude to ethnic minorities is changing more slowly and there is still a long way to go although clearly, moves are being made.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, mentioned as the greatest commander of this century Field Marshal Montgomery. As a young boy and as a chorister, I met Field Marshal Montgomery. He was indeed much happier with small boys around him than he was with his family. This is of course true of many of our great soldiers of the past. Happily, he was never pursued by the military police to inquire into the inner secrets of his heart. I regret that the military police have wished to pursue such questions so actively over the past 10 to 15 years.
I should like now to raise one or two questions on procurement and the defence industry where, again, I was a little puzzled by the vigour with which the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, defended the industry and, indeed, its commitment to arms exports and future arms sales. It is clear that our industry, as well as those in western Europe and across the Atlantic, is faced with continuing retrenchment--
The Earl of Longford: My Lords, I apologise to the House for interrupting the noble Lord but I must clarify what he said. Did the noble Lord say that the famous Viscount Montgomery was something of a homosexual, or did I get that all wrong?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I was merely saying, as many have about many of our most distinguished military commanders, that they had deep secrets within their souls. Indeed, many have also said that about Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, and others. Such matters are best left to one side and in no way affected their qualities as commanders. I raised that simply because, nowadays, when all these things are so much more out in the open, it is one of the questions that I regard the military as not taking sufficient account of.
I return to the question of procurement. I am most concerned that arms markets into which we hope to sell are, as my noble friend Lord Mayhew suggested, precisely those which represent the most insecure in the world; namely, those in the Middle East. Indeed, 10 or 15 years ago we were selling actively to Iran; now we are selling very actively to Saudi Arabia, not one of the world's most stable regimes.
I regret that, over the past 15 years, Government support for industry has been so biased in favour of the arms industry against civilian industries. It is quite clear to me now that we must both move towards membership of the European armaments agency and also recognise that we must actively shift from our over-dependence on arms exports in British production.
In conclusion, perhaps I may compliment the Minister again on what seems to be the honesty of this defence White Paper--the extent to which it does set out a series of very hard choices. I share the Minister's hope that the Secretary of State for Defence will be as honest and as open in referring to the realities of military integration and European defence identity when he addresses the Conservative Party Conference in October.
Lord Howell: My Lords, I had intended to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, to our debates. I shall still do so, although I have to say, with regret, that I have a reservation in view of his quite unjustified remarks about Lord Montgomery. I prefer to leave the reputation of that great field marshal where the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, placed it earlier in the debate. I hope that the noble Lord will think again about the views he expressed for which, so far as I can see, there is no evidence whatever.
It is now becoming crystal clear that the defence of the realm which for 50 years since the days of the great Ernest Bevin and the creation of NATO has been conducted in this country on a bipartisan basis--or perhaps I should say tri-partisan basis--in which I passionately believe. So it is a matter of regret to know that the Treasury-driven exercise against our defence forces is now so strained that it is essentially becoming part of party political warfare, as we saw in yesterday's debate.
I especially regret the remarks made yesterday by the Minister. He made what I thought a very sad personal comment about my noble friend Lord Williams. I give way to the Minister.
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