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House of Lords

Wednesday, 19th January 2000.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Southwark.

Kosovo: Payments to Armed Forces

Lord Burnham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What bonus payments are to be paid to members of the Armed Forces who have served in Kosovo.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, no specific bonuses will be paid to service personnel who have served in Kosovo. However, on 20th December 1999 my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced enhancements to the payments available during separation. These are to be introduced shortly and I am happy to tell the House that all those who served in Kosovo on paid, separated service will be eligible for them.

Lord Burnham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, is it not the case that the Government have pressed the pay review body for a payment of £1,000 to all personnel who served in Kosovo; that the review body has insisted that that money should be paid to all servicemen and women serving overseas; and that the amount involved will be taken away when a full-scale pay review is carried out in the course of this year?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No, my Lords, I do not believe that that is quite right. The expected cost of the provision for the previous two years--the payments will be backdated--all the way across the three armed services is something in the region of £6 million. Of course, those payments directly attributable to service in either Bosnia or Kosovo will come out of the central reserve. It is a complicated formula; backdating is involved. I believe that the Armed Forces will be pleased to receive the bonus payments as well as the backdating and the shorter period of eligibility introduced by my right honourable friend.

Lord Bramall: My Lords, I am totally and utterly confused. Does the Minister not agree that, as a matter of principle, it is entirely wrong that soldiers, sailors and airmen should be paid more for doing their duty under active service conditions? Surely the whole principle is that they should be paid a proper wage with an "X-factor" to take into account the dangers they may meet and the discipline they endure and serve under. Therefore it is quite wrong to say that they would receive extra money. Of course they must not receive less money, and I hope the Minister agrees that if there was a difference between what they were paid

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in Germany because of a local overseas allowance and what they were paid in Kosovo because that local overseas allowance had been removed, that difference should indeed disappear. But I hope that the principle that they are paid to be fighting soldiers, sailors and airmen will not be forgotten.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree entirely with what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, says. The fact is that what is known as the X- factor is taken into account in service pay. The noble and gallant Lord will know that that amounts to about 12 per cent of the pay of our servicemen and women. The enhancements announced by my right honourable friend were to the allowances made for paid, separated service. It is not a question of paying our servicemen and women when they are on active fighting service, but of paying them when they are undergoing the particular problems of being separated from their home base. As I hope I made clear in my Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, the payment is not directly attributable to service either in Kosovo, Bosnia, or anywhere else where servicemen and women may be actively engaged; it is because of the separation from their home base.

Lord Bramall: My Lords, I am obliged to the Minister, but does the X-factor not take into account an element of separation, of which I certainly experienced an enormous amount during my service in the forces?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the X-factor takes into account the fact that servicemen and women throughout their lives may be disrupted; they make have to work in a number of different bases. It does not take into account the fact that, from time to time, they may be separated from their current home base. It is for that reason that the payment, now enhanced by my right honourable friend the current Secretary of State, was introduced on 1st December 1997 by my former right honourable friend George Robertson, now my noble friend Lord Robertson of Port Ellen.

New Agenda Coalition Resolution

2.40 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which elements of the New Agenda Coalition resolution, approved by the United Nations General Assembly on 13th October 1999, they found unacceptable; and why.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, the resolution to which my noble and learned friend refers contains many elements that we strongly support, including its calls for faster progress towards multilateral nuclear disarmament. But it also included proposals which go beyond the

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internationally agreed way forward; for example, the conclusion of a treaty giving negative security assurances to all non-nuclear weapons states, before that issue has been properly discussed in Geneva.

We had a specific difficulty with the proposal that nuclear warheads be removed from delivery vehicles. We examined that question in detail in the Strategic Defence Review and concluded that it was incompatible with a credible submarine-based deterrent.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer, which was substantially more informative than the uncharacteristically dismissive answer which she gave me last week. Does she appreciate that at stake is the confidence of the non-nuclear powers in the whole non-proliferation process and that at the forthcoming review conference, the whole process may collapse? Even if the Government are undismayed that 121 countries disagree with us, will they, in future negotiations, at least consider it possible that the American Senate may be wrong?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, perhaps I may say straight away that if I appeared to be dismissive to my noble and learned friend, then I wholeheartedly apologise. All noble Lords will know that my noble and learned friend must be commended for the resilience and persistence with which he has pursued this quite right issue. But I must reiterate that Her Majesty's Government are entirely committed to disarmament. We have made that absolutely clear in what we have done. It is of great sadness to us that the New Agenda resolution contains so many issues with which we agreed, but a number with which we disagreed and, therefore, we felt obliged--honour-bound--not to vote for it. That does not in any way detract from our total commitment to pursuing nuclear disarmament with vigour.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, will the Minister agree that the matter is becoming disturbingly urgent? The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is effectively no longer supported by the United States. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will be reviewed in April this year, and there are some worries about whether it is likely to be renewed. We now know that the Start II Treaty is still completely stuck in relationships between Russia, the United States and others. In addition, the first conversations are now starting about the possibility of a major amendment to the ABM Treaty, which some of us regard as almost the last real obstacle to proliferation. Can the Minister say whether Her Majesty's Government are addressing this whole group of issues and, if so, what opportunities there may be for later discussion and debate on this crucial matter?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Baroness rightly raises all those issues, which are causing us a great deal of concern and, if I may

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respectfully say so, frustration. We all had hopes and aspirations that the process would be more quickly addressed. As I have said previously to your Lordships, the reality is that we need to take our partners with us. However, agreement is necessary for negotiations. We cannot negotiate with ourselves; we need others to engage in the process. Therefore, we are taking all the opportunities available in Geneva and elsewhere to push the issue and to encourage all our partners to look at the matter in a way which will be most conducive to bringing about the long-term aim; that is, nuclear disarmament in an environment which guarantees international safety.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is no more than prudent for the Government to take note of the fact that, many years on, the Russians have still not signed the Start II Treaty, that they are producing new nuclear weapons, and that they show no sign whatever of taking proliferation seriously? Will the noble Baroness agree that in those circumstances the Government are behaving with the utmost prudence?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I certainly agree with the last statement that we are behaving with the utmost prudence. However, we hope that the new Russian Duma will at last ratify Start II, opening the way to early negotiations with the United States on a Start III Treaty. We are very keen to obtain an early agreement on a work programme in the conference on disarmament so that negotiations can finally start on a fissile material cut-off treaty. We are working with our key international partners for the success of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review at the conference in April to which I have already referred.

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