|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Sewel: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not accusing Members opposite of seeking to delay the Bill. I am saying that, if the amendment was passed, it would inevitably delay the implementation and coming into force of the Scottish parliament. That is a different matter.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I accept the distinction, but I believe there was a suggestion in relation to the "ticking clock" that the amendments and discussion on them would inevitably delay the Bill. I accept that the last amendment in the group would have that effect, though I did not intend that. Frankly, as this is very much a probing and opening up of the debate, it would not take more than a few minutes to re-phrase the amendments in order to allow the Scottish parliament to start but to make provision for a second chamber.
The Government should listen to what is being said, not just from this side of the Chamber but also from their own Benches. The noble Lord, Lord Ewing, intervened to tell us how I have changed my mind. He keeps saying that. But he went on to say that there was great virtue in changing one's mind. It shows that one has enough brains to have second thoughts. The noble Lord said that he felt this was an important issue and should be discussed and decided, not necessarily before the Scottish parliament is up and running but through some provision allowing it to be discussed in the initial years. That was a view supported by the noble Lord, Lord Desai.
There is a broadly based body of opinion therefore that believes that a second chamber is worth a great deal more consideration than it has been given to date. I fully accept, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said, that the powers of that second chamber would have to be considered. Indeed, my amendment refers to the powers and composition of a second chamber. I fully accept that in America the Senate has moved from being a revising chamber to being arguably the driving chamber, the most powerful
I welcome the views from around the Chamber, with one or two exceptions, that there is merit in considering the proposition that we ought to have a second chamber in order to deal with Scottish legislation and the Scottish parliamentary situation. I am not of the view, as are some people--the noble Lord, Lord Steel, hopes for this--that it will all be sweetness and light. My noble friend Lord Lang said that he felt it might be more, not less, acrimonious. Certainly, if Scottish politics at the moment are anything to go by, it is pretty rough. Unfortunately, I have to say that my party and indeed the party of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, are slightly on the sidelines of the roughness, but there is a fair degree of roughness between the governing party and the Scottish National Party. However, we shall have more of that later. I am aware that many of your Lordships wish to get on to the important defence Statement.
We have had an excellent debate. We have expressed to the Government from all sides that there is merit in considering the case for a second chamber. I simply say this to the Government. Given the timetable, I accept that it would probably be almost impossible to devise a second chamber solution which would be up and running before 1st May. But we all ought to reflect on how we could incorporate in the Bill a provision for a second chamber to be considered by the Scottish parliament and by this Parliament thereafter so that in two or three years' time we would be able, if we wished, to put in place a second chamber. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, before we move to the Statement on the Strategic Defence Review, I should like to take this opportunity to remind the House that the Companion indicates that discussion on a Statement should be confined to brief comments and questions for clarification. Peers who speak at length do so at the expense of other noble Lords.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): My Lords, with permission, I shall repeat a Statement that has recently been made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence. The Statement is as follows:
"However, before I address that issue may I first of all apologise to you and to the House for the unauthorised and improper disclosure to some newspapers last night of the content of the White Paper. I am as angry and as outraged at this leak as any other Member of this House. I have asked the Cabinet Secretary to authorise an immediate and thorough investigation into how this came about. The person or persons responsible will be dealt with severely.
"This is a serious breach of an embargo designed to make sure that the detail of this major review was given first of all to the House of Commons. I regret very much that the House and the Ministry of Defence's own employees heard first from the media. I take full responsibility for this situation, as my office demands, and that is why I apologise to you and to my parliamentary colleagues.
"Madam Speaker, the British people are rightly proud of their Armed Forces. They want, indeed expect, the Government to provide strong defence for their country. The Strategic Defence Review does just that.
"This review is the most radical and far-reaching reshaping and modernisation of our forces for a generation--unique in three key ways. First, it has been foreign policy-led, not Treasury driven; secondly, it has been unprecedentedly open and inclusive; and, thirdly, it has the wholehearted support of all of the service chiefs.
"This review will fundamentally reshape and modernise Britain's Armed Forces, sorting the weaknesses, building on our strengths and providing a structure to deal with tomorrow's threats, not yesterday's enemies. As a result, our forces will be more mobile, better manned, better supported and equipped, and better able to act as a force for good in the world--where we can and when we choose.
"The world has changed out of all recognition since the end of the Cold War. NATO remains the basis for defence and security. But while the threat of major war in Europe is now a remote prospect, new threats confront us--terrorism, the international drugs trade, the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological
"In the Cold War, we needed large forces at home and on the Continent to defend against the constant threat of massive attack from the Soviet Union. Now, instability is the new enemy and the need is increasingly to help prevent or shape crises further away--if necessary, by deploying military forces rapidly before they get out of hand. In other words, we must now be prepared to go to the crisis, rather than have the crisis come to us.
"Yet this review has demonstrated that our forces are not properly adapted to this new environment. In today's world we need to get our troops to trouble spots and crisis areas quickly and safely and make sure they are properly supported when they get there. The review, however, has highlighted the serious weaknesses we have inherited in this area--most notably in heavy transport and in our hollowed out and demoralised defence medical services.
"The review therefore proposes major new investment and new enhancements to improve the ability of our troops to deploy more rapidly to trouble spots around the world. We will acquire four additional roll-on roll-off container ships and four large C-17 aircraft or their equivalent. To support and supply our troops once they reach these trouble spots, we will enhance the Army's supporting arms so that for the first time they can undertake two operations at the same time. And because we have a solemn duty of care to our servicemen and women whom we ask to put their lives at risk, it will make new money and personnel available to revitalise the defence medical services.
"Another key theme of the review has been a more integrated or joint service approach to defence to improve the operational effectiveness of the forces. We are therefore introducing a series of radical changes to our Armed Forces. These include bringing together all our battlefield helicopters under a single command and expanding the responsibilities of the Chief of Joint Operations; a new Joint Defence Centre to develop doctrine and other planning on a tri-service basis; and a four-star Chief of Defence Logistics who will co-ordinate and standardise our three support services properly for the first time. I am today pleased to announce that the first such chief will be Lieutenant General Sir Sam Cowan, currently the Quartermaster General.
"But the most important of these joint initiatives is the creation of a new pool of joint rapid reaction forces. These will be the spearhead of our new modernised front line and will include all of our high readiness forces. Not only will they enable us to respond quickly and effectively to crises of all kinds, and to build up larger forces should that be necessary, but--unlike today--we will be able to mount more than one Bosnia-size operation at a time.
"The review also introduces important new front-line capabilities. We will create a sixth deployable brigade to increase the Army's flexibility and help tackle overstretch. The parachute role of the current airborne brigade will also be transferred to the airmobile brigade, which will become a new, powerful and highly mobile air-manoeuvre brigade or "air cavalry" when the Apache attack helicopter enters service.
"And to meet our longer term needs, I am delighted to be able to tell the House that we plan to replace our current small carriers from around 2012 with two larger, more versatile, carriers--in effect, floating airfields capable of carrying a more powerful force, including a future carrier-borne aircraft to replace the Harrier the cost of which will be spread over some 20 years.
"These changes, though, will not lead to cuts in the overall strength of our regular forces since the manpower released by these reductions will be used to fill gaps in front line manning, thereby easing overstretch.
"I am determined that the Territorial Army should become more relevant, usable and integrated with the rest of our forces. Those who wish to see it languish in an outdated Cold War role do the TA no service at all. Although its numbers will be trimmed to 40,000, it will be given a real heavyweight role in our nation's defences and called up more frequently in times of crisis. And for that we intend also that they be better trained and properly equipped.
"Unlike other recent reviews, this review is designed to put people first. That is why I am today announcing a significant new training and education initiative to boost recruitment and retention. All recruits will be given the opportunity to gain the six key skills needed by all in the workplace, and all personnel will be given the chance to achieve qualifications recognised by civilian employers.
"In addition, there will be a major new programme, the learning forces' initiative, to expand education and training opportunities for the Armed Forces through new 'learning credits', which may be claimed both during service careers and for sometime afterwards.
"These proposals will boost recruitment and retention by increasing the already considerable benefits of a service career and benefit defence by developing the skills needed for modern warfare. The economy as a whole will also benefit as better qualified personnel return to the civilian employment market after their service career.
"For our service families, we are setting up a task force to address the special problems which arise from their mobile lifestyle. And for Britain's ex-servicemen and women, we are setting up a new veterans' cell to provide an access point for guidance and advice.
"It is of course vital that our Armed Forces are properly resourced. But if defence is to command the support of the nation it must also be seen as good value for money. By 2001-2, in three years' time, we will be spending £747 million more than this year. In real terms, allowing for one-off asset sales, this will be a reduction of £685 million or about 3 per cent. in the defence budget. That compares with a reduction of over 20 per cent. in real terms in the last seven years of the previous government. We will do this primarily through increased efficiency, smarter procurement and better utilisation of assets. And because the review represents a three-year settlement, we will be able to bring a new stability to our defence planning.
"This Government believe that, in addition to caring for our people and defending our rights at home, we must also discharge our responsibilities in the world. We must therefore strengthen the effectiveness of the international community in peace support and humanitarian operations of all kinds, particularly through the United Nations. I can therefore announce that Britain will now make a larger proportion of our front line capabilities potentially available to the UN for peace support and humanitarian deployments, including all of our rapidly deployable forces.
"In what is still an uncertain and unstable world, we must, of course, be able to react quickly to crises as they develop. But we should aim to do more than that. We should aim to prevent conflict from arising in the first place. I therefore intend to elevate conflict prevention--or 'defence diplomacy' as I have called it--to one of the eight core missions which will underpin our defence planning. That commitment will be backed up by a series of practical measures, including new education and training initiatives, to help develop and promote modern, democratically accountable forces around the world.
"We will, therefore, retain Trident as our sole nuclear system, but the single submarine on patrol at any one time will carry only 48 warheads. This compares with the previous government's announced ceiling of 96. And by reducing our overall stockpile to 200 operationally available warheads, we will have cut the explosive power of the deterrent by 70 per cent. since the end of the Cold War. At the same time we will press ahead with arms control and introduce much greater openness on nuclear issues, including on our stocks of fissile material. All in all, these are sensible measures which I am sure will be widely welcomed.
"This is a truly radical review which builds on the strengths and successes of our forces. It rectifies the weaknesses we inherited and it modernises our forces to deal with tomorrow's threats rather than yesterday's enemies. It places the skilled, brave and versatile people on whom our defence depends firmly at the centre of our planning and it gives them a clear sense of direction into the next century. Above all, it delivers the modern forces Britain needs for the modern world. This is a good deal for defence and a good deal for the country. I commend it to the House."
Lord Burnham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made by his right honourable friend in another place. At the same time I thank him for giving me a copy of the White Paper and of the Statement itself. I must emphasise that my brown envelope was a legitimate one. However, when I said in the defence debate last December that the then forthcoming review was not leaking, I had no conception of the degree to which it would leak thereafter, culminating in what we have seen in today's papers. It really is not acceptable that Peers and MPs in another place should read the Strategic Defence Review in the Daily Telegraph before it is put before Members of both Houses. The remarks with which the Secretary of State's Statement begins are very welcome.
It is essential that this House has a full opportunity of debating the White Paper. I am well aware of the pressure of government business, but it is essential that this House should have at least a full day's debate as soon as possible. It should be before the House rises at the end of this month, or whenever that may be. If this proves impossible--and I do not see why it should be--we must have time in the spill-over period. It is likely that there will be a Scotland Bill-like number of noble Lords wanting to speak and we really need two days for it.
We have been told that the review has been foreign-policy based, but there can be no doubt that the dead hand of the Treasury has been on it. The Government have never published the foreign policy baseline which would have led them to try to match capabilities to commitments. The White Paper certainly does not do that.
I suppose we should be grateful to the Secretary of State and his advisers that the cuts, amounting to £915 million, have been kept down to that figure. I suppose that is the figure but the White Paper is remarkably light on finance (and incidentally on timing). But however the figures are presented and however the leaks are spin-doctored, there can be no doubt that as a result of this Strategic Defence Review Britain's forces will have fewer men, (in spite of the Regular Army increases), fewer ships and less money.
All the leaks have told us that the review will be foreign-policy led, but the document contains no foreign policy baseline. It says that we cannot predict the crises we will face. While this is self-evident, little has been done about it and the broad benchmarks referred to in the White Paper are very broad indeed. The saving statement is that we must retain the ability to build a bigger force. If that is in the plan, it is well hidden.
The result of this has been to leave plans for the future in an indeterminate state. An indication of this lies in the references to the two new large aircraft carriers which, with Eurofighter, can probably be considered to be the kingplanks of the review. Each time the aircraft carriers are referred to the document says, "we plan to" and this phrase was repeated in the Secretary of State's statement this afternoon. Never does it say, "We will build the aircraft carriers", and the cynics will claim there is too much of a let out if the Chancellor suddenly had a victory and in the light of a changing economic situation, or for any other reason, demanded a major saving.
Because of the leaks, which we have all heard, the contents of the review are well known. This is not the time to go over them in detail, but certain points should be touched on in advance of a full-scale debate in this House. First and most importantly, the timetable seems to be remarkably vague. The Statement seems impeccable but nowhere, with the sole exception of the gloomy figure of 2012 for the completion of the aircraft carriers, is there anything resembling a timetable. There are, as the Statement says, many radical proposals. The costs will very greatly depend on the recruitment of army personnel; the TA cuts; disposal of assets; payments for jointery and a number of other factors. Done quickly they will probably be more expensive but more efficient; done slowly, costs will probably be lower but there will be many other disadvantages.
The discussion of details of the review must await the debate, but there are one or two matters on which I must touch. The Territorial Army is one. Morale is low because of the uncertainty and there is still no indication, even in the White Paper, from where the 19,000 manpower saving is to come. Which units are affected? Which TA centres are to be closed? The Duke of York Barracks have been mentioned. That is an
Three armoured regiments are to be brought back from Germany. But where are they to be trained, particularly in the light of the fact that it may be more difficult in future to do this in Scotland or Wales? Can the department successfully deal with the troublesome environmentalists who do not like bangs and force units to carry a Portaloo rather than dig a hole in the ground?
The review and the Statement seem to skate carefully--a difficult task for a Labour Government--with regard to the difficult nuclear issue. The Secretary of State is to be very much congratulated on what is said in the Statement on that. I hope that the Minister will underline the point made that nuclear disarmament would greatly increase the costs of a conventional non-nuclear defence programme.
Recruitment, retention and education are rightly singled out. Retention is particularly important as trained men are at present dropping out of the back as fast as untrained men come in the front. If airlines are having to be bribed not to take on RAF pilots, we are in a desperate position and the ministry is right to do everything it can to keep service personnel and their families happy. The intentions, as set out in the review, are estimable. Let us hope they will be backed up by a fact or two.
Rightly in his Statement the Secretary of State talks about overstretch and undermanning. The plans for welfare and education are designed to help with that, but it will be a slow process. Where is the Army to get the extra 3,500 men for which it is looking? Unless confidence in the Armed Forces as a career can be rebuilt, that will not be easy.
Clearly, an immense amount of work has been done on smart procurement and defence logistics. This is most welcome, as is the news of closer co-operation between the services, particularly the Navy and the RAF. We are to have a four-star Chief of Defence Logistics. Where is he to fit into the service hierarchy? And will he be a logistician or an ordinary high grade quartermaster? We know that the first incumbent is to be Sir Sam Cowan, the existing QMG. I would advise him that the first bit of equipment that he should procure is a shield for his back.
The Strategic Defence Review is planned to cover the defence of this country for the next 15 years. Let us hope that it is successful. Some of the wording worries me and I implore the Government not to fall into the 10-year rule trap of the 1920s and 1930s. Above all, having made their decisions, will the Government now get on with it? Indecision in the past has led to a major loss of morale which in turn has affected service recruiting, retention and the efficiency of the fighting services themselves. That must be put right, even if the
Lord Newby: My Lords, in rising to respond from these Benches, I do so first with an apology from my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire who is currently chairing Sub-Committee F of the Select Committee on the European Communities, which is taking evidence from the Minister of State at the Home Office. My noble friend hopes to be able to rejoin our discussions before we conclude them.
In welcoming the Statement, I support the request made by the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, for a full debate on the issues raised as soon as possible. By its own admission, this is a very comprehensive document. It marks a number of radical departures in defence policy and it is difficult to do justice to them in the short time available to us this afternoon.
I welcome a number of the review's components. I welcome first the Government's commitment to "jointery"--a new word to me at least, but a powerful one. To those of us who are not imbued with experience of military matters, the distinctions and the degree of rivalry between the forces comes as something of a shock and a surprise. We are pleased to see that the Government are tackling that in a range of ways. It is slightly surprising to hear the fact that two lots of Harrier aircraft are being brought together described as an historic proposal. To many of us, that seems a sensible and long overdue proposal. We wish all strength to the Government's arm in bringing the forces together where that makes for efficiency and sense.
Secondly, we welcome the rebalancing of the land forces and the decision to create an extra armed brigade. We are pleased that the Government are, in a sense, getting a grip on providing a sensible role for the Territorial Army and ensuring that it is better trained and equipped.
The TA has been in a bit of a limbo. It has been undermanned against targets in many areas and sometimes its equipment has woefully reminded one of a scene from "Dad's Army". While I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, that further details are required, the concept that the TA will be properly equipped and trained for today's rather than yesterday's tasks is a welcome change.
We welcome the reduction in the number of Trident warheads. Clearly, that is long overdue and the new level better reflects current realities. We also welcome the introduction of more commercial procurement systems for the Armed Forces. This is a vast raft of public expenditure and it is extremely important that value for money is maintained and enhanced by the introduction of more commercial systems.
It is remarkable that a foreign policy-led Statement makes not a single reference to our European partners or to the US. The words "Europe" and "US" do not appear anywhere in the Statement. There is only one reference to NATO. It is almost as though in many respects we are considering our international and global
Secondly, to what extent do the Government envisage that the expeditionary capacity will be exercised independently, or will it provide a contribution to combined forces? If so, with whom and in what circumstances do the Government envisage that occurring in the foreseeable future? In particular, do the Government envisage the expeditionary capacity being used beyond the Mediterranean and the Middle East? For example, can they really envisage joining action in the Indian Ocean or the South China Seas some 30 years after the end of our east of Suez policy?
To return to Europe, given that only the UK and France have a residual power projection capability, has the UK had discussions with the French Government about these plans, in particular the development of a possible joint European capability? Is the reality that the UK intends to follow the US lead even if that conflicts with the views of our European partners?
The Government have made much about this being a foreign policy-based strategy. I hope that the Minister will be able further to clarify the foreign policy objectives that underlie this strategy, not least for the generation of young people for whom full-scale European and global conflict is something to be read about in the history books and for whom "Cool Britannia" has a much greater resonance than "Rule Britannia".
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, for his generally very helpful remarks--I hope that that does not embarrass him too much--and his endorsement of the comments of the Secretary of State about the scandal of this leak, which mortifies all of us. As the noble Lord has said, it is totally unacceptable.
The noble Lords, Lord Burnham and Lord Newby, whom I welcome to defence debates in this place, asked me about the possibility of a debate on this review. I am certain that we shall have a debate, but as to when that takes place is not within my gift. I relish having such a debate, and the sooner the better, as I shall inform the Chief Whip when I have a chance. But this House is also due a debate on NATO enlargement. That has not been forgotten. I hope that both debates can take place no later than Christmas. I should like them to take place as early as the noble Lord has said, but both he and I are aware of the exigencies of other business.
The noble Lord, Lord Burnham, gently mocked the proposition that this review had not been Treasury-led. I wish only that the noble Lord and other noble Lords had been with me a couple of hours ago when my right honourable friend the Secretary of State gave a press conference. At the end of his statement he invited the Chief of the Defence Staff to make some remarks. The Chief of the Defence Staff informed the assembled
The Chief of the Defence Staff confirmed that the package which left the Ministry of Defence in March was identical to that announced by my right honourable friend this afternoon in another place. The Ministry of Defence began by trying to make greater savings than the Treasury had asked for because it was aware, to quote a commentator on the scene, that,
The noble Lord, Lord Burnham, complained about the absence of a foreign policy baseline. It is an unfortunate accident of politics that he was not engaged in his present responsibilities when the Strategic Defence Review started and therefore was not invited, as were many Members of this House, to a series of seminars hosted by my right honourable friend on the way in which the review should be conducted. The noble Lord's predecessor, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, gave us the benefit of his thoughts on these matters.
I can inform the noble Lord and the House that the Secretary of State has been scrupulous in seeking the opinions of former Chiefs of the Defence Staff, Permanent Secretaries, members of the Armed Forces and many noble Lords in this House, some of whom I have had the pleasure to entertain, in the course of the past 14 months in an attempt to obtain the widest possible range of opinions as to how the foreign policy review should be conducted, what its foreign policy baseline should be and what kinds of resources and assets would be required to implement its conclusions.
I noted one slip in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Burnham. He observed that there would be fewer men in the services. I regret to say that the noble Lord is not well informed. He could not have been listening to the particular passage in the Statement of my right honourable friend. The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force strengths will remain unchanged and the Army's strength will be increased by 3,300. Far from having
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|