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An aspect that surprises me about many of the speeches about the TA by Regular Army officers is the attitude that the TA should be the first to be considered when there are to be cuts, as if the TA, rather than the Regular Army, could somehow absorb the cuts. This is a problematic area and shows the inherent divide between the Regular Army and the Territorial Army, which is well exampled in the attitudes of regular soldiers and territorial soldiers to each other. I believe that healing that rift is very important for any future role that the TA will undertake within the Regular Army.
The cutting of the TA will have a number of devastating impacts. Although I realise that the cuts are less severe than they might have been, one of the problems that they will cause will be a loss of the skill base within the Territorial Army. A major problem with closing Territorial Army bases and reducing the number of establishments is that a number of posts will disappear. Many territorial soldiers will be unable to move from one position to another and gain experience in different units. I speak as a member of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and as someone who has seen the loss in the skill base at first hand. It is difficult to build up the required number of courses on the limited man training days available, especially when one has to put people on courses which will last a number of weeks but, because of the limited man training days, they cannot do those courses and meet their camp commitments.
The second impact will be on the link to the local community. I was pleased that in the previous Session the Minister declared that the link with the ACF would not be affected by the cuts. I was gratified that the ACF, which has an important role, especially in recruitment, was to be saved and that drill halls associated with it would be preserved. However, if the link with the community is broken in too many areas there will be a direct impact on the recruitment ability of the Regular Army. For many TA soldiers, especially the younger ones, the TA is their first brush with military life and quite a number go on to the Regular Army.
The required change in the attitude of the Regular Army to the TA will also be reflected in the position of the regular Army after the SDR. The TA will have a far more important role because so many posts are left unfilled in the Regular Army. The role of the territorials as a base for large numbers of troops can be changed by way of the terms of service accepted by territorial soldiers. Rather than train for a need that no longer exists among units that will never go to war, the Territorial Army can focus far more on training individuals to undertake short-term postings within Regular Army units.
There is a great deal of sentimental attachment to the idea of the Territorial Army having a regimental basis. I understand that that provides a sense of purpose and history to members of the Territorial Army. However, having visited officers' messes to attend Territorial
To express a personal view and not that of my party, I hope that the regimental system can be taken out of the Territorial Army. This will cause a great deal of consternation. However, it is extremely important that the individual soldier has a purpose in joining the Territorial Army. What is important is not the maintenance of regiments that may have had a glorious history although little impact on the individual soldier, but the individual unit and the training of the individual soldier. One of the major difficulties of retention of Territorial Army soldiers is that after a period of time they realise it is very unlikely that they will ever have the ability to serve in an operational capacity. That is one of the major difficulties of retention in the Territorial Army.
If members of the Territorial Army could be given a greater sense of purpose or role in the Regular Army it would have two effects. First, it would mean better retention among the Territorial Army. Secondly, it could also prevent the overstretch that often occurs within the Regular Army.
One area that has been focused on by many noble Lords is the medical service. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, referred to the frightening position in which the DMS finds itself. I hope that the 2,000 in posts in the new formation of the Territorial Army will be new posts. The noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, has indicated that they are not new posts. I hope that the Minister will be able to indicate that they are real new posts. One of the major problems faced by the medical services in the past is that their use has been underestimated. For example, thankfully we did not need the medical services in the Falklands War or in the Gulf War. I have some personal experience because my brother-in-law was in the RAMC during the Gulf War. The picture he painted when he returned was that the Territorial Army provided the backbone to the medical service. Without the Territorial Army is there a backbone to the medical service? Because it has not been needed so far does not mean that in a future conflict it will not be needed.
We come to another issue relating to the Reserve Forces Act which was touched upon by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox; namely, the fear that the NHS and health trusts will place obstacles in the path of surgeons in particular and anaesthetists in training with the medical corps. Bearing in mind that that Act came into force some time ago, can the Minister give an indication whether the NHS or health trusts have imposed conditions? If so, it may cause real difficulties. I do not believe that it would be for any reason other than that the health trusts themselves were overworked and recognised the value of their surgeons.
Many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, with remarkable tenacity, made reference to nuclear weapons. The SDR sets out the need for a deterrent. We on these Benches support that.
Another issue that has been raised is the provision of aircraft carriers. In view of the agreement that has been concluded between France and Britain is it possible for us to share our carrier fleet with the French? I realise that this may be a new concept. One of the major problems with the carrier fleet is that if we have two on line at any one time we will probably require three carriers in case one is in dry dock at any particular time. Is there any possibility of linking up with the French rather than having the duplication that exists at the moment?
Many noble Lords have made reference to the WEU and in particular the question of greater co-operation. We on these Benches support greater emphasis on the WEU rather than on NATO. It will be extremely difficult for us to act in countries like Bosnia if we must rely on the Americans who are not prepared to put troops on the ground. I have witnessed the interaction of the troops of many nations. Recently I was an observer at the Bosnian elections and had the pleasure of witnessing a visit by large number of SFOR troops to my polling station as a grenade had been reported there.
I was disappointed that the SDR made little mention of future warfare. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, raised the issue of cyber warfare. The SDR refers to it as information warfare. Given the terror that the millennium bug is creating at the moment, it would be unfortunate if little work was being done to counter that threat. Can the Minister give any indication as to what preparations the MoD is making in this area of warfare, if any?
I congratulate the Government and the Army on the recent declaration of zero tolerance as regards racial discrimination. Such a statement was given very recently and it is a massive step forward. I believe that the success of the SDR will be seen quite soon, not by the Army but by a very simple indicator; namely, whether people who join the Army see it as a valuable and attractive career for the future.
Lord Burnham My Lords, I cannot resist asking the noble Lord, Lord Redesedale, that if we are to share an aircraft carrier with the French, who is going to steer it? Your Lordships have been asked today to, "take note of" the review. In another place six weeks ago MPs were asked to, "approve the conclusions" of the review. I wonder whether that variation in wording is because of the financial implications, which remain ultra vires for your Lordships because there is no doubt that money and the Treasury have had a large part to play. Nevertheless, I am sure that there is general approval for the large amount of work that has gone into the review and also approval for the degree of consultation
I underline that we on these Benches support the bi-partisan approach to a defence policy, for which the Minister asked. I hope that we shall be able to help and that he will take all that is said in the spirit that we are trying to help. It is only as regards the Territorial Army where we may be said to have a fundamental disagreement. My noble friend Lord Cope has clearly laid down as regards one area of the country what seems to be an extraordinary and impractical reorganisation. Your Lordships have discussed the TA at some length. I ask the noble Lord whether adequate attention has been given to its role as a recruitment centre for the Regular Army; as a supplier of reserves and as a centre for social activity in many parts of the country where such a role is urgently needed. The noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, has pointed out the relationship between the regular and cadet forces. I believe that the Territorial Army has much the same role.
It is the convention of your Lordships' House that only the succeeding speaker should pay tribute to a maiden speaker. Almost all of your Lordships ignored that and I intend to do the same. We have had the benefit of the advice of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Vincent. He is the most recently retired soldier. He is very welcome as a partial begetter of the SDR itself. We have had the benefit of hearing from three noble and gallant Lords today. I am only sorry that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, was not here. I know that he deeply regrets that he was unable to speak and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley. I regret that they have been unable to give us a nap hand. I would like to express my personal regret that, following the sad death of Lord Fieldhouse, there is not in this House a recently retired and senior naval officer to advise your Lordships on naval affairs.
In listening to all three noble and gallant Lords today, it has been interesting to note that all three are satisfied with the Government's actions as regards the Territorial Army. That has been reflected in the Regular Army itself. I wonder whether, now that many regular soldiers have had the opportunity of working with territorials, particularly in Bosnia, that they may feel that the Territorial Army has a more important role to fill in its current form than had been previously thought.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, spoke about the company as being possibly the minimum size of a desirable unit for the territorials. I support that. My noble friend Lord Cope spoke about platoons and almost single guns. The Territorial Army must be given the benefit not only in the accounts of working together if it is to be able to act as a formed unit.
Throughout the review we have been told that it is foreign policy based and I accept that. The frontiers of foreign policy are continually moving. Even so, some of the ideas of 1997 and the early part of this year have radically altered. The recent St. Malo concordat, in which the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State
In welcoming the SDR, the House of Commons Defence Committee has been fairly critical of some aspects. In its response to the committee the Government have in fact disagreed with the concern expressed that Russia still poses a potential military problem. Let us hope that they are right. In the immediate future that would seem to be undoubtedly the case, but it would be unwise to discard the possible danger entirely. Thus, long-term procurement should be based on a possibility that things may go wrong again. Equally, too much reliance should not be put on the conviction that never again will there be trouble in the Ukraine or Kazakhstan. There must be a significant danger that the desperate economic situation in Russia and the former countries of the Soviet Union, may bring about a desperate political reaction. We have to watch not only the states of the former Soviet Union, but many countries with equal "rogue" tendencies.
We still do not appear to have had a sufficiently informative exposition of the foreign baseline although it is interesting to note that by approving the conclusions of the SDR, honourable Members in another place have given the Prime Minister carte blanche to conduct a foreign policy which would have been the envy of Lord Palmerston.
Apart from foreign policy, there remains a conviction that the Ministry of Defence is still finding great difficulty in keeping its books straight. The recently published Performance Report of the Ministry of Defence for 1997-98 notes the criticisms of the Commons Public Accounts Committee in respect of the MoD accounts for 1996-7. Some consolation is given, but the audit account for the following year still shows things going wrong in 1997-98, with a fairly notable deficit. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who is not in his place, has tabled a Question with regard to the £34.6 million written off on an aborted MoD computer project. I hoped that the House might have had the reply by today so that we might comment on it. That has not been possible. We await it with interest.
The Minister was reassuring in his speech about the smart procurement initiative. His comments on the development of integrated project teams and a more logical system of spare parts holdings must be welcomed. I wonder whether he can make any comment on something I have been told that despite the idea that everyone should be working together, the RAF is still buying its own vehicles.
On procurement, the layout of Abbey Wood, where so much of this is carried out, still presents problems both physical and in terms of the methods adopted. I hope that the Government will look carefully at the way
The Minister referred to the number of times I have asked about aircraft carriers. I have indeed done so--almost as many times as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, has asked about nuclear disarmament. However, in the summer the Minister gave your Lordships the assurance that the two aircraft carriers would be built rather than that we "intend to" build them. That assurance was more categoric than anything said in the SDR. It is not doubted by me or any noble Lord here, but we and colleagues in another place have heard many rumours which have cast doubts on the Government's resolution. For that reason I am more than grateful for the reassurances that the Minister has given the House today, with evidence of concrete progress--even if it is concrete only in terms of pieces of paper.
I ask him further to confirm that the design delivery date is still 2012. Advertisements for tenders for the refit of existing carriers seem to suggest that the commissioning of the new ships might be put off until 2022. The building of the aircraft carriers is crucial to the success of the SDR. Long discussions on whether the air assault force which has been planned should be land or sea based--I believe that argument to be critical to the whole of the Government's foreign defence policy--can only have been resolved in favour of a sea-based defence force which can only be maintained by the building of the new carriers.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said that it was essential that we should go to the crisis. We cannot go to the crisis unless we have equipment in which to do so. Even by 2012 the existing carriers will be well beyond their sell-by date. In any case, they are much too small.
There remains the question of what aircraft to put on the new carriers. I ask the Minister for any comment he cares to make. I am advised that it is unlikely to be the Eurofighter although it could be used in an emergency. There are major problems with the airframe if Eurofighter is to be used for sea-borne take-offs and landings, and the deck of the carrier would probably need to be strengthened.
It seems that the SDR figure of 232 Eurofighters to be built is adequate for foreseeable needs provided that the estimated 80 per cent. in service at any one time can be maintained. It is important from the point of view of the international construction industry that numbers should not be reduced and that a regular programme of building should be maintained. Not only must the aircraft be European, we must have European missiles to put on them. Any difficulties which in an unfortunate set of circumstances might cause the Americans to cause trouble with their export licences would most seriously damage the ability of Europe to maintain an independent defence system.
The Minister was asked in another place yesterday whether Eurofighter was on target for delivery starting in 2002 given the estimated overspend in the air equipment budget of £1 billion. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, to comment on the figure and to state whether it will have any effect on the delivery of the Eurofighter.
As I mentioned in the debate on the gracious Speech, the European countries are the allies and not the clients of the United States. Undoubtedly and properly Her Majesty's Government have stood behind the United States, but they should not be expected to do so unquestioningly--even if that is the only way one can obtain equipment.
Another area where there are potential problems is the supply of transport aircraft. Here I hope that Her Majesty's Government will succeed in getting the German Government totally on side with regard to the production of the FLA. The C130J is an excellent machine, but it is too small and one cannot put a Warrior on it. The FLA is an ideal size and can carry anything up to a small battle tank or an Apache helicopter. All these are details of equipment. In general we cannot criticise the thrust of the SDR. However, the SDR seems not to have given sufficient attention to recruitment, overstretch and retention although the Government's intentions are impeccable. We are looking for a small increase in numbers. But will the money be available for them before the designated year of 2004? How are those people to be obtained? I do not believe that equal opportunities legislation, desirable as it is, will do much good in this field. The Government will have to do more in planning and marketing for long-term career opportunities for servicemen and a satisfactory lifestyle for their wives and families if we are to recruit and keep the servicemen we need.
However, with the exception of the plans for the TA, we welcome the review. We take note of it. Your Lordships may and almost certainly will come back to it in the near future. However, I hope that as regards all the fundamental points the Government may be able to carry out their policy with determination and expedition.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, the first and very agreeable task I have is to congratulate the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Vincent of Coleshill, on his maiden speech. I am a little aggrieved with the noble and gallant Lord. It has taken him two years to make his maiden speech in this House, and during that time we have had quite a lot of defence debates. I hope that he does not intend to go AWOL in any future defence debates now that he has made his maiden speech. I cannot understand why the noble and gallant Lord suggests that making a maiden speech in this House was particularly intimidating. Having done so myself, I can tell the noble and gallant Lord that it is nothing like as intimidating as having to follow three field marshals, one after the other, as a Minister. We were all delighted to hear the noble and gallant Lord. I am particularly gratified at the agreeable remarks he made about the Strategic Defence Review. Needless to say, I share with him a view of the importance of the nuclear deterrent. I shall come to that
However, I very much agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Vincent of Coleshill, on the importance of NATO, and in particular that it has kept the United States constructively engaged in the affairs of Europe, and, coincidentally, in other parts of the world. I fully understand his concerns--we heard them echoed around the House by many noble Lords--about the degree of overstretch which to some extent will still exist in the Army even after we have recruited up to 3,000 more men and women. I entirely accept what he says about the Army being more heavily committed relative to its total strength than at any time since the 1940s.
The noble and gallant Lord also made the point that the Territorial Army needs more administrative support than is at present available. I am sure my right honourable friend in another place will take careful note of what the noble and gallant Lord had to say on that.
There were so many detailed contributions that it would be impossible for me to attempt to reply to them in the degree of detail that they deserve. I think in particular, but by no means exclusively, of the contributions of the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. They spoke in great detail. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for sending me a copy of the remarks she intended to make. I received it only a few hours ago and was horrified to think how on earth I was going to reply. I hope that she and other noble Lords will accept that if I cannot reply to detailed points I shall deal with them in correspondence.
I have received a note from the Box concerning a remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, about 2,000 posts in the medical services. I am informed that the 2,000 represents an increase over the existing establishment. However, we are double-hatting 476 bandsmen to augment the medical services. Those bandsmen will perform non-specialist medical roles and the remaining 1,500 will have to be recruited separately, together with the 1,000 or so who are needed where the service is under strength.
Many references were made to the Territorial Army. The Government recognise the concern felt about the future and importance of the Territorial Army. At the risk of repeating myself, I must say again what I said in our previous debate on the TA. The determination of the required strength was made on operational grounds. That came out at about 25,000 men. We then added about another 6,500 men to assure ourselves that we would be able to produce 25,000 whenever necessary. We increased that 31,500 to the present total by a series of add-ons as a result of representations made to us during the consultation period. We wished to ensure that we had as wide a footprint as possible and that the administrative arrangements were as sensible as possible, including arrangements for nuclear, biological and chemical units. So we did listen and considerably expanded the operational requirement of the TA over and above that which was universally agreed by the service chiefs to be necessary.
Everything over and above the figure of 31,500 is designed to meet the points made about footprints and aid to the civil power which your Lordships have raised today. I realise that we have not satisfied all your Lordships. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, spoke in great detail about the problems relating to the Territorial Army in Bristol and surrounding counties. Other noble Lords made similar points. On a previous occasion, points were made about North and South Wales and having a single headquarters covering the whole of Wales. We had to try to compromise between getting as wide a footprint as possible and stretching units very thinly. We could have had the units more condensed and of a larger size, but we would have had to sacrifice the degree of footprint which we sought to achieve, and have achieved, over the United Kingdom as a whole.
My noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney asked about the absence from the SDR of anything about nuclear disarmament. As I have said previously at this Dispatch Box, I can assure him that it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government that we would like a world without nuclear weapons. I have no hesitation in standing at the Dispatch Box and saying that. When we are likely to see it is another matter, but the Government have placed no obstacles in the path of future nuclear disarmament.
At one time I thought it was somewhat improbable to find the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, as a bedfellow of my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney in relation to nuclear matters. The noble and gallant Lord invited me to read a recent publication from the Council of Arms Control, of which I am correctly identified as a trustee. I regret to say that I have not found time to read that publication. However, I have had time to read the publication CND Today, the summer edition of 1997 of which contains a blurred picture of the noble and gallant Lord, who is described as an unlikely ally in the fight against Trident. The interesting thing is that the noble and gallant Lord, who I hope is correctly quoted in the document, says,
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