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7.17 p.m.

Lord Mottistone: My Lords, I, too, should like to thank my noble friend Lord Vivian for this debate. Under its title, for brevity, I propose to identify the matters that are of special importance for the Government to consider. I start with the importance of all three Armed Forces, especially when threats to peace are uncertain. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, might be interested to know that my father, as a junior Minister in the War Office under Sir Winston Churchill, was one of those who founded the RAF many years ago. Indeed, I believe he was the first president of the Air Board.

My next point is the importance of helping to keep the peace, both to quieten warring factions, as in Bosnia, and to keep open trade routes as the Armilla patrol did in the Persian Gulf. To that must be added the importance of naval forces to support land and land-based air forces where they are involved, as in Bosnia, or to conduct an operation like that of the Armilla patrol.

I turn now to the importance, already mentioned by other noble Lords, of constant exercising and training for all Armed Forces, both in order that they are ready for varying degrees of offensive action and to present a convincing deterrence to potential aggressors such as was not achieved before the Falklands campaign in 1982.

As well as the necessity for exercising and training, I add the importance of keeping Armed Forces equipped at a sufficiently up-to-date strength to deter possible aggressors at all times. I now add the importance of being ready to tackle unexpected aggressors as well as likely ones, especially when the world is expected to be largely peaceful. The 19th century has many examples of that. In addition, there is the importance of never forgetting that modern fighting equipment--whether it be ships, submarines, tanks or aeroplanes--can never be produced quickly if allowed to run down in numbers below what a prudent planner sees as necessary for unexpected eventualities. So far as the Navy goes, I believe that we have now reached the rock bottom that should ever be permitted, either in what we have or what we plan to have during the coming years.

Finally, there is the importance of never forgetting that the Foreign Office tends to recommend the disposal of dependent territories, even when the inhabitants do not want it, and of never forgetting that the Treasury--and now, I see, chief constables--tends to recommend further defence economies, even when previous governments have just made more economies than many think are wise.

So I hope that when the Minister replies he will be able to reassure us on those points. I hope in particular that he will not be too much led astray, since in his letter he explained how the Foreign Office would be consulted first. There is a great deal to be said for consulting Foreign Office Ministers but not perhaps the Foreign Office itself. Its record as regards the services is, in my opinion, abysmal.

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7.21 p.m.

The Earl of Effingham: My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, for introducing this very important subject in your Lordships' Chamber.

These are exciting times for the Royal Navy. The north Atlantic dominated our thinking during the Cold War, but over the last 10 years we have built a versatile and effective force structure to support and, if necessary, fight for British interests around the world. To achieve this we have embraced a demanding period of change, not least in shaping the Royal Navy to contribute to the requirements of joint warfare, under the control of the Permanent Joint Headquarters.

Today's Navy is a force of discrete and highly capable units that are effective when operating on their own, yet able at almost immediate notice to play a significant part in a large multinational task force anywhere in the world. This gives a great deal of flexibility when deciding how to respond to crises that may affect Britain's interests.

Our role is very much to contribute towards preserving a peaceful environment in which our foreign policy and trade can flourish. To do that, we must be able to deter aggression, which means that we must have and continue to develop forces which can be rapidly adapted to changing circumstances. With a powerful, well equipped navy, consisting of aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, amphibious forces and the rest of the supporting ships, we have the essential elements in our armoury to contribute to Britain's joint operational capability.

We are always looking for new ways to make the Navy more effective in working with potential allies and other services. Nowhere is that process more apparent than in coastal regions where developing our links into land operations could prove decisive. So we strive to make our platforms ever more compatible with those of the other services, to enhance the overall utility of joint rapid deployment force assets.

The Royal Navy deploys task groups to the Asia Pacific region about every three or four years. The current 1997 deployment called "Ocean Wave", led by the aircraft carrier HMS "Illustrious", set out last January and will return next month. The group is made up of some 20 Royal Navy warships, submarines and support vessels, together with Royal Marines and elements from the Naval Air Squadron.

The aims of the deployment are: to demonstrate the United Kingdom's continuing commitment to the region; to test the Royal Navy's ability to deploy an operationally effective and self-sustaining force out of area for a prolonged period; to underline our continuing interest in promoting regional peace, stability and freedom of international trade; and to support co-operation and joint working between military forces.

"Ocean Wave" has been a great success, with particularly warm endorsement of the Royal Navy's presence from our diplomatic missions and British firms. An example was the assessment, after the task group's visit to the Philippines, that it was an

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outstanding demonstration of Britain's commitment to Asia, underlining the importance of the Armed Forces in underpinning our foreign policy interests.

We must ensure that Britain has the forces necessary to protect itself and its considerable investments abroad. We have responsibilities for the defence of our dependent territories and the protection of British citizens abroad. As a leading member of the world community, we have responsibilities to act together with partners, allies and friends, to ensure world stability and deal with the consequences of instability.

Thus in the future our forces may be called upon to perform a wide range of tasks that extend beyond the threat of super power confrontation. The inherent flexibility of the Royal Navy has enabled a relatively smooth transition from the Cold War to the emerging challenges to the interests of this country and world peace.

The Royal Navy possesses qualities that include mobility, flexibility, reach, versatility, endurance, lift and autonomy. In practice, those qualities mean that the Royal Navy can mount and sustain operations in any of the oceans of the world. Ships do not require permission to use the high seas. Task groups can be formed that match the requirement of the operation and they can carry or protect the strategic sea-lift that is vital to mount a largescale land operation. These groups can also provide their own defensive capability to be autonomous units, free of the requirement for host nation support.

In conclusion, I believe that maritime forces are thus inherently "joint"; that is, able to operate in the three environments of land, sea or air, and capable of mounting significant operations. When combined with the capabilities of the Army and the Royal Air Force, they form a vital element of our defence capability to meet the varied challenges that we face around the world.

7.27 p.m.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, one of our great military successes has been our use of armour. I was therefore alarmed to hear rumours circulating at high levels in armoured regiments that the Government, maybe encouraged by the academic lobby, is attracted by the concept of role specialisation with Britain providing a "gendarmerie army" for peace-keeping operations while allies defend our high intensity interests. The fear is that we will give up our heavy armour component of the Rapid Reaction Corp and invest in mechanised infantry and helicopters. High intensity combat is expensive, so the biggest savings are to be found here.

But no government can hold its mandate by proposing that Britain eschew such a capability. It would be a dangerous reliance to expect allies to take the lion's share of the fighting on our behalf and meet the heaviest cost burden. The capacity to defend the United Kingdom--whether by force projection in Europe as part of the ARRC or within our own shores and possibly alone--comes from the political commitment which makes defence of the realm the first order of government business.

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Capabilities flow from commitments. The defence review will consider our commitments and whatever is deemed essential must be funded. Parties engaged in conflict should not deploy force as an instrument of policy at all if they are not capable of anything more than limited operations at the lower end of the spectrum.

High intensity combat on land cannot be fought without tanks, a fact which even the impoverished Russians accept. Tanks have a part to play across the full spectrum of war fighting. Peacekeeping operations in Bosnia only succeeded when tanks were deployed. British armour had a suppressing effect on the conflict, as it denied the enemy the freedom of movement required to keep the initiative, all without exposing British troops to too great a risk.

The proposal to abandon high intensity conflict makes sense only if it is possible to assume that all future conflict in which British land forces become engaged will be limited and of low intensity. There is no indication that that is true, either in Europe or globally, and it ignores the rapidity with which war can change from one condition to another. By giving up tanks we throw away the entire capability of contributing anything but flank and rear-area troops to our allies.

And at what cost, my Lords? We could not hold on to the leadership of the ARRC with such a trivial investment; and with the loss of command, we would lose whatever political influence is gained by having it--at least in the councils of the UN, NATO and the possibly re-born WEU.

It takes years of training to perfect the complex skills of armoured warfare, skills demonstrated in Desert Storm, where 70 per cent. of ground targets were destroyed by armoured forces in just 100 hours. With those skills would disappear the technical and industrial expertise which has culminated in the prize capability of being able to design and manufacture vehicles like Challenger 2 and Warrior. Our ground forces would be barely more than a third world, low-tech force fit only for policing duties--something of which the public would quickly tire. Recruiting would undoubtedly suffer, as would the morale of existing troops.

Our soldiers want to play with the big boys. As my noble friend Lord Vivian said, giving up our tanks would be a dangerous mistake.

7.33 p.m.

Lord Wedgwood: My Lords, I join noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Vivian for introducing this debate.

It has been mentioned time and again that the Army has been overstretched to ridiculous levels and now we understand that recruitment is 5,000 short of the current target. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Allenby, I believe it is urgent that recruitment is given some serious reconsideration and support.

Further, I believe that junior entry programmes should be part of the solution. Those programmes serve a number of purposes. They give young people a tremendous opportunity immediately on leaving school. Those who complete training are usually of a quality which, combined with the benefit of early training,

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means they are high achievers and an excellent investment. In the past, the ranks of non-commissioned officers have been well served by junior entrants. I do not have the percentages but a show of hands in any sergeants' mess will give conclusive evidence of this. Losing that investment will affect the quality of those important ranks.

In your Lordships' House last week, during the discipline Acts debate, my noble friend Lord Howe referred to the drug problem in the services. Soldiers, sailors and airmen will naturally reflect the society they come from and the nation's drug problems centre around youth. With a junior entry programme, the Army would have the opportunity to train recruits and bring them into military life before the problems start. It is not clear how soon training of juniors will start. Maybe the Minister could help to clarify that point during his speech.

There is a common misconception that overstretch is caused by an inability to fulfil our commitments. Despite the enormous reductions, our Armed Forces are capable of maintaining our formal commitments as determined by foreign policy, exemplified by Germany, Cyprus and the Falklands. Northern Ireland would fit into that category as well. But what happens when a regiment such as the Royal Scots, the regiment in which I was fortunate to serve, currently based in Colchester and re-training for its new role, is suddenly deployed for extra duties required because of the current concerns about the annual marches in Northern Ireland? Noble Lords will be more than familiar with my point: among many other negative consequences, vital training is disrupted and soldiers are withdrawn from specialised courses designed to educate them to higher levels of skill and ability. With recruitment at its required level, the manning margin, slim though it is, can take care of filling some gaps. But, with no flesh on the bone, regiments are required to borrow soldiers--a scheme known in Scotland as "rent-a-Jock". That, in turn, has its own domino effect, with negative results on all units.

The effects of overstretch come from additional operational demands such as in Northern Ireland, Bosnia or wherever the next bushfire erupts. Without the required intervals between tours, many wives--between 15 per cent. and 20 per cent. in infantry regiments--now decide not to follow their husbands. Their argument is that in modern society--they are a reflection of that society--they have children, jobs and mortgages; and, with the instability caused by overstretch, they might as well stay where they are. Discord and morale problems naturally result.

The Armed Forces Minister in another place, Dr. Reid, recently said about the impending Strategic Defence Review:

    "We are concerned about getting the equation right".

Predicting future operational commitments that relate to defence and foreign policy is a difficult task, but there are vital elements to fit into the Minister's equation. One is definitely the military family.

Owing to successive reviews, young commissioned officers are becoming disillusioned by the lack of stability. As a result of those reviews, they are now concerned about capabilities to perform operational

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tasks. Following Options for Change and the defence costs study, orders were carried out with characteristic responsibility, in the belief that our armed services could be smaller but better. Now, officers are faced with another review. Scepticism that the Government will give in to further Treasury demands is the result.

What can be made of the two current major commitments for our armed services? The situation in Northern Ireland does not warrant much hope for even limited withdrawal in the near future. The consequences of further withdrawal from Germany was well covered by my noble friend Lord Vivian. I would add only that without Germany our training facilities are not sufficient for certain vital "live firing" practices.

Given those commitments, the current numbers and the ability to carry out operational demands becoming increasingly limited, officers have reason to be concerned about their careers. With the review months away from completion, the Government need to provide assurance of their intent. Confirmation of signed contracts, such as for Apache and EH101, would go a long way to relieving concerns about future support. Without those kinds of assurances we are likely to lose our best young officers. Without them we cannot expect our future military leaders to be of the high calibre that we demand and have today. Any strategic defence review would reflect the needs of the nation. I believe that the people of this country value our armed services and expect them to be equipped, trained and, therefore, capable of carrying out "armed" operational commitments.

The Armed Forces Minister in another place has stated that the review is:

    "not a cost cutting exercise";


    "we will not be rushing to judgment".

For that, he can be applauded. But our military forces deserve the immediate support of the Government. I urge the Government to show determination in creating a more stable framework from which our armed services can operate effectively and to remove the notion that the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are an industry in decline.

7.40 p.m.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I must declare an interest in view of my work with the independent international security think tank--Safer World--and with other related organisations. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, whom I greatly respect, I believe the foreign policy led defence review is long overdue. The repeated piecemeal Treasury-led cuts under the previous government have seriously damaged service morale and left the services uncertain about their role and ability to sustain in depth the range of responsibilities still currently or potentially evidently expected of them. Overstretched is a reality. We, the politicians, can no longer dodge our responsibility for that and for the dangers it represents for our men and women in uniform.

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The relative predictability of Cold War days has been replaced by the unpredictability and volatile conflict across the world. Genocide is back in business. More than 90 per cent. of war-related casualties in current conflicts are civilian as compared with some 50 per cent. in the Second World War. Conflict is more often within states than between them. Some will ask what concern of ours are far off conflicts of that sort. Michael Portillo answered that question well as Secretary of State for Defence last autumn when speaking of the Great Lakes. He said,

    "Because we are a civilised nation. We can see that people are about to die in their thousands and we are one of the few nations on earth that has the military capability to help at least some of them. We recognise our humanitarian obligations".

He continued,

    "We take pride in our permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council, but it carries with it clear duties".

As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, properly and bluntly reminded us today, we have to be clear whether or not we want to be a world power. If we do, we have to measure up to that role. If we aspire to be a world power and accept the responsibility that that entails, of course we have to examine what international security requires of us in co-operation with others. The Armed Services remain a significant part of the response. But the need is for far more. It encompasses justice in global economic management and trade; fair access to the natural and mineral resources of the world, not least water and land; it includes population policy and the well-being of threatened ethnic groupings. And on top of that, acute environmental pressures have to be addressed.

It is in the midst of those challenges that the opportunistic ethnic entrepreneurs and religious extremists ply their evil trade. We must forestall them and that is one good illustration of why an integrated approach to overseas policy, including defence, is so important. Debt and insensitive structural adjustment policies, the downward spiral in world commodity prices and pressure on land have all been central to the origins of the crises in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Economic and social policy, pre-emptive diplomacy, conflict resolution, peacemaking, peacekeeping, arms control, disarmament and firm accountability of the arms trade are all essential elements in security policy. Never again should our service personnel be faced with weapons supplied by irresponsible traders based here in Britain itself. Profits must never be allowed to take precedence over responsibility in the arms trade, which has too often fuelled the instability which in the end, directly or indirectly, involves us all.

That brings us to other major issues which the review will have to address. Among them are migration and terrorism; the relationship between NATO and the need for growing co-operation with Russia if nationalism there is not to be provoked; the relationship between NATO, the Western European Union and the European Union; the danger of proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and the future of our own nuclear deterrent within the context of the non-proliferation treaty. In that respect we look to my

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noble friend the Minister for specific assurance that we will not provocatively increase our nuclear arsenal as we deploy Trident.

Cynics already suggest that the review is just a cover for yet another Treasury-led cost-cutting exercise. To confound them the Government will have to ensure maximum consultation and involvement in the review; maximum dissemination of its findings and maximum debate before implementation. Understanding and ownership will be vital. The objective must surely be to achieve cross-party consensus and provide at last a convincing framework within which the services and the defence industries can plan confidently for the long-term future.

Before I conclude, there is one pressing matter on which it is important to have the Government's immediate reassurance. Last year the Office for Public Management produced a report which raised deep anxieties about the extent of racial prejudice, intolerance and harassment within the services. Such attitudes and behaviour in the services are clearly unacceptable. Indeed, there is a painful paradox when our services have an enviably outstanding record for peacekeeping across the world in the midst of ethnic tension. We should be able to hold our heads high as world leaders--one of only five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council--confident that our Armed Services in which we take so much pride epitomise the enlightenment, understanding and tolerance we advocate for the world as a whole.

We know that senior officers in all three services and many others at all levels are determined to root out all traces of racism. They deserve our full-hearted goodwill. Britain has become a multi-cultural, multi-racial society. We should be proud of that. We should strive to be a model of success to the world and the services should be in the vanguard of demonstrating that. I hope my noble friend the Minister will give us a categoric assurance that the Government will give unqualified support to the leadership and the others in the services who are determined to put right that sad blemish on our otherwise exemplary record.

7.46 p.m.

Lord Ironside: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, for wording the Motion in the way that he has, for we heard little about defence in the election campaign and have heard very little since. That point was mentioned by my noble friend Lady Park. Yet the health of the nation in defence is just as important as the health of the individual, education or social security about which we have heard so much.

The strategy review, which for so long the Labour Party has seen as one of the aces in its pack, may be the Government's way of addressing defence, but I wonder whether it will lead to better decision making and outcomes bearing in mind that the dialogue between the MoD and opinion formers in defence circles and elsewhere is extremely good already. I believe that we have reached the point where the management of defence is strong, where contractors perform well and where the accuracy and penetrating prowess of weapons

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is as strong a deterrent as the weapons themselves. The stand-off feature now required has brought that about, so Tomahawk will be a powerful addition to the Royal Navy's "golfbag" of weapons.

The impact of competition policy and throwing the responsibility of meeting performance onto contractors now means that the defence industrial and commercial base is closer to being reckoned as part of the capability of the Armed Forces because so many services are now supplied in addition to hardware. Contracting out is now the norm rather than the exception and any attempts at contracting in again will be absurd. The fact that industry is now so involved in defence business adds to its ability to provide support in emergencies and the "surge" capability is there.

The loss of in-house capability to industry is again of frontline capability to our Armed Forces and fears of losing too much support capability to industry are overdone. Competition policy has driven costs down. Quality assurance has driven performance up and devolving risk onto the contractor has driven reliability up. We are at last obtaining far better value for money.

The importance of our Armed Forces is judged by how they perform their defence roles. But that depends as much on our investments in long-term projects as on the next type of frigate, fighter or main battle tank. I should like to draw attention to the importance of two of those. The first is the long-term investment in modernising the married quarters estate through the sale and leaseback deal, which breaks new ground in defence procurement, but through transactions which are well recognised in business circles. It is interesting to note that the Australian Government now have five years' experience of getting defence housing into shape and have sold the leasehold of their three major airports--Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. So we are not out of line in our approach to solving the problem, and parliamentary scrutiny has, I believe, helped the MoD to secure the best terms and conditions. Ensuring that the up-front money is not dependent on a spiral of pledges from downstream operators involved with property exchange in future years is a lesson we have learnt from the Australian Government. In other words, we have ensured that we get real money up front after the five-year exchange option was dropped by the bidders who won.

Secondly, the construction of the Clyde naval base is a long-term investment which is not just centred on Trident but which is linked to the strengthening of our underwater warfare capability as a whole. The new "Astute" class nuclear submarine will match the performance of new Russian submarines and they will not, I believe, need to be refuelled during their lifetime. That is a very big step forward indeed. Without this long-term investment in nuclear propulsion, deterrent design, supply and upkeep as well as nuclear submarine refit, our blue water capability would be incomplete and we would not have the ability to reach out, to react, to deter and to sustain an operation, however limited, away from our shores. Our rapid reaction forces are now being built around air mobility and amphibiosity. I hope that

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the Government will continue to invest in these long-term capabilities. My Lords, let us keep defence strong.

7.51 p.m.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, the forthcoming defence review will establish strategic objectives for the next decade; foreign policy imperatives will determine defence commitment world-wide. A welcome and sensible approach, my Lords, which will enable the review to reflect Britain's determination to stand up for what is right and just, to reward fair play and penalise miscreants, to carve an international role for the United Kingdom that is neither accessory nor minor but one worthy of our history, our values and convictions, and one which recognises fully the countless sacrifices made by our Armed Forces.

There is perhaps scope, in this far-reaching debate, to tell of the special relationship which Her Majesty's Armed Forces maintain with a small, English-speaking, democratic Commonwealth country in central America. Belize has entertained British troops in one guise or another since 1948; they evolved from a colonial force into a defence guarantee in 1981--defending independent Belize against a century-old territorial claim by neighbouring Guatemala. Harrier diplomacy, my Lords, dissuaded the more volatile elements in Guatemala from foolhardy military interventions.

In 1993, Her Majesty's Government assured the Belize Government that the time was right for the British garrison to be withdrawn. Mr. Archie Hamilton, then Minister for the Armed Forces, said in another place:

    "the changes announced ... are in response to the greatly improved relations between Belize and Guatemala, and not Options for Change".

His Foreign Office colleague, Jeremy Hanley, insisted that:

    "Guatemala had embraced democracy, found stability and recognised Belize",

and that the decision to withdraw,

    "was not for financial reasons".

Indeed, the savings were said to be modest. The former chairman of the Defence Select Committee, Sir Nicholas Bonsor, was outspokenly critical:

    "Our presence in Belize has enormous value, way beyond the military element",


    "The withdrawal is short-sighted".

Referring to Guatemala, he said:

    "when a country is unstable, that must throw doubt on whether any assurances given by the regime of the moment can be relied upon even in the short and medium term".

A military coup rocked Guatemala shortly thereafter, defying British assessments, and announced that their recognition had been unconstitutional, premature and always without prejudice to their outstanding territorial claim. They advised the United Nations that the claim was reinstated to both land and sea areas "presently occupied by Belize". Now they insist that Britain is still a party to the dispute. Britain, however, is firm that

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Belize inherited the problem at independence and must now negotiate as best she can. Yet, my Lords, a British training presence does not confer the same leverage as the Belize Defence Force which is outnumbered by the Guatemalan army by 50 to one.

There is an obvious case to be made for an expanded British presence in Belize. Belize's inherited predicament, her unstinting support for Britain at the UN and elsewhere, her unwavering commitment to democracy, individual freedoms and good governance and her unique multicultural diversity bridging Latin America and the Caribbean, all combine to make her a special friend with special needs. But we would be remiss, if not irresponsible, if we did not also consider the "returns on our investment".

British forces preserve stability and peace in the region, bolster a wide British presence in Central America and assist with drugs interdiction. Britain would have easy access to a friendly, compact, accessible and low-cost training area of unparalleled quality. The facilities for jungle training, environmentally sound adventure training, live firing and low-flying sorties are unmatched elsewhere in the world. British Forces Belize have, in the course of their training, cleaned up offshore cays and helped to maintain and protect that fragile environment. Jungle training exercises deterred illegal logging in Belize's many conservation parks and protected important rain forest ecosystems.

An expanded British presence in Belize is of mutual benefit both in the short and the long term. Such an enhanced role combines foreign policy responsibilities with fundamental military needs and objectives. The strategic review will allocate spending to areas where our interests are best served. Our reduced Armed Forces, recognised as the standard bearers of effectiveness and efficiency, can usefully combine continued excellence and influence with practical application in an increased deployment to Belize indicative of this country's interests stretching beyond the European Union to all four corners of the world.

7.58 p.m.

The Earl of Clanwilliam: My Lords, our Armed Forces are the envy of the world in their disciplined and humanitarian approach to control of warring factions in peacetime, and particularly when the time arrives for full-scale deployment. Unfortunately, there is always a condition which falls between any of these categories, and it is then that our forces display their characteristic flexibility and resourcefulness; and for that they justly earn our debt of gratitude.

In his introduction to this important debate my noble friend Lord Vivian referred to the regimental system. I would prefer perhaps to refer to the decimation of our regimental system and the reduction in general of our Armed Forces to a very low level. There is a shortage of men in the Army which seriously affects their ability to deliver the full role that they are called upon to play. In the Royal Navy there is a similar shortage, but it is in the field of fully-trained ratings in electronics upon whom the main armament and weapons systems depend.

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These shortages are a fall-out from the Front Line First review which had the immediate effect of a typical over-reaction and which now needs to be corrected. I would ask the Minister whether the defence review will have something useful to contribute to that problem.

An example of it in the Royal Navy is the Recruiting and Training Agency which is having to learn to live with the Flagship initiative. That seems to be causing friction, especially with the decision to close existing RN training establishments and the appointment of civilians working alongside, and indeed superior to, Royal Navy officers and men. The problem can be summarised as a conflict at the interface between civilianised ex-service trainers in plain clothes and the disciplined uniformed rates. There is also the question of the acceptability by uniformed trainees of the civilian instructors. That may be thought of as perhaps a somewhat parochial point, but it is relevant to the shortage problem.

Be that as it may, the main deterrent of the United Kingdom is the Trident class boats, which was the subject of a Starred Question this afternoon. The fourth boat, HMS "Vengeance", will complete the full deployment of the flotilla, which will then provide a continuous and world-wide screen. It is to the Royal Navy that we can look with confidence to provide that protection. As my noble friend Lord Ironside has said, the addition of the A-class boats will confirm that world-wide protection.

No admiral has ever had enough frigates and now that the number of frigates is reduced to 33, we are at full stretch. While there was excellent deployment, as the noble Earl, Lord Effingham, pointed out, it is nevertheless true that the Navy has been left at full stretch. A level of 36 frigates is too low, especially when it is well established that the Russians are operating atomic powered nuclear submarines out of the White Sea in the Atlantic area. We have to be on our guard and we must be aware. For that we need the full force of the Royal Navy.

In the matter of the defence of the realm in general and its relationship to our allies, there is the problem of NATO on the one hand and the ambitions of some members of the WEU on the other to distance themselves from the enormous industrial and military strength of the United States. The association of the United States in our mutual defence is a vital element, especially in the light of its awesome power for retaliation and with the acknowledged superiority of its GPS supervision system from satellites and its ability to adjust the power factor of the satellites at its discretion. Therefore, the United States has total control of military operations conducted through satellites.

Nevertheless, we have the Conference of the National Armaments Directors studying the problem of common and compatible weapons. We are fortunate that there is agreement with Germany over the Eurofighter; the Agusta helicopter with the Italians; the combined frigate with France and other nations, but all these are diverse colleagues. I see that my time is up. We must have commonality of systems.

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