|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Last week Mrs Ursula Brennan, whom I have never met and know nothing about personally, took over as Permanent Secretary at the MoD. I looked up her career to see how it fitted with the criteria that I have set out. As to experience, she has been at the MoD for exactly two years. She had no previous experience in that department and, as far as I can see, none of a military or defence nature. Her career began at ILEA; then she was at the DHSS for 25 years, where she dealt with benefits policy and administration, and then IT. She moved to the Department for Work and Pensions and then to Defra, where she was responsible for rural disadvantage, wildlife and the countryside-all important policy areas for a farmer such as me. However, I am not sure that Defra is an obvious staff college for those destined to lead our national security. Most recently she has been concerned with reform at the Ministry of Justice. It is, frankly, a perplexing appointment. That Ursula Brennan meets the criterion of integrity I do not for one instant doubt. As to respect, trust and authority, I can only echo the late Iain Macleod who, referring to the transfer of George Brown to the Foreign Office, said, "I only hope ... oh well, I only hope".
Lord Liddle: My Lords, I became deeply involved in defence when, in 1997, I was made the No. 10 representative on the strategic defence review steering group. It was a wonderful experience. I gained enormous respect for the ministerial team that led that review, all of whom now grace the Benches of this House. My noble friend Lord Robertson of Port Ellen led the review with tact, decisiveness and a quality of judgment that were wonderful to behold, and was very ably supported by the noble Lords, Lord Reid of Cardowan and Lord Gilbert. I also gained a lot of respect for the civil servants and military who advised him. Those military personnel were then led by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank. I ended up being an unqualified admirer of our Armed Forces, even after the Navy subjected me to the terrifying experience of making me climb up a rope ladder on to a destroyer.
I should like to reflect a little on the lessons of the past 13 years that should have been learnt by the current review. First, the Labour Government should have carried out more defence reviews. Excellent as was the 1997-98 review, we should have had another early in the 2001 Parliament after 9/11 to look at the consequences of that, and a third at the start of the 2005 Parliament to draw conclusions from what happened in Iraq and from the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. Fighting two wars of this intensity simultaneously was not in our 1997-98 planning assumptions, and although the Labour Government always-despite allegations to the contrary-fully funded the operational requirements of the forces from the contingency reserve, the consequence was a hollowing out of our force structures as a result of the strains put on equipment and people who were being asked to do more than had been anticipated. This review has gone well beyond hollowing out; what we see is amputation, and this is not a sustainable solution for the long term.
The second lesson is that when Governments carry out defence reviews, they should fully fund them. Defence should not be seen as something that can be raided to fund social programmes-and I say this from the Labour side-as it fulfils a vital role for all Governments, including Labour Governments. In 1998, we fudged the money a little by claiming that there was a sort of pot of fool's gold called 3 per cent a year efficiency savings. A lot of efficiency savings can be made in the MoD. Indeed, the proposals in the 1998 review regarding logistics and the attempt to reform procurement were intended to achieve efficiency savings. Certainly, it is clear from Bernard Gray's excellent independent report that he produced for John Hutton that procurement has not been smart and there is a lot further to go. There will always be an element of politics in procurement decisions, and Bernard's recommendation on setting up an arm's-length body will not get rid of that entirely but it will make the process more transparent.
I do not believe that we should decide to build a new generation of submarine deterrents-nor do I think anyone else does-just because we want to preserve the Barrow shipyard, though, as a Cumbrian, I very much want to do that. Nor do I think we should build aircraft carriers just because they will be refitted at Rosyth. But, equally, we should not fool ourselves that free market principles of open competition can be applied simply as a dogma as regards defence. The ability to manufacture complex, high-tech equipment is something that we should want to maintain in Britain, or in co-operation with our European partners, out of a concern to maintain an advanced industrial policy and our own strategic capabilities. The review is largely silent on this issue, promising a further policy statement-but this is crucial.
Thirdly, our defence planning should be built on a clear concept of Britain's role in the world. It is becoming conventional wisdom that Tony Blair got all this wrong; that his belief in military intervention was conceptually flawed and committed us beyond our resources; and that Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated very painfully the limits of military power. The present Government do not say this explicitly,
12 Nov 2010 : Column 443
In these circumstances, the bravery of our service men and women, and their appalling losses of life and limb, cause me to feel intense admiration and immense distress in equal measure. However, it would be a great mistake to draw from the experience of the past decade the conclusion that humanitarian military intervention is fundamentally misconceived. The defence policy assumptions of the late 1990s were based on their own judgments of "never again". Never again, because of lack of strategic airlift, would we find ourselves helpless to stop genocide in Rwanda. Never again would Europe, because of a lack of effective firepower when the Americans were reluctant to act, be a helpless bystander in the face of appalling atrocities in Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia.
Humanitarian intervention did work in Kuwait in the early 1990s and, with eventual US support, in Bosnia and then Kosovo. British intervention saved democracy and thousands of lives in Sierra Leone. There are just wars and interventions. Tony Blair got it right most of the time. The ultimate question is one of judgment about where military power can be effective and where it cannot. However, one cannot make those judgments unless the Government have provided effective resources and forces to be deployed. We cannot allow wrong conclusions drawn from the past decade to lead to military and moral retreat.
That brings me to my final point about Britain's relations with America and Europe. The advent of the Obama Administration represented a wonderful opportunity to rebuild the transatlantic alliance between a multilateralist United States and a values-based Europe. It is a profound regret that Europe has not sufficiently stepped up to the table. However, I challenge the assumption that, because of part of Europe's feebleness, Britain must continue to design its defence posture on the very expensive assumption that we must be capable of fighting independently alongside the United States in future wars. I wonder whether this is a sustainable political concept. For instance, if we had a Tea Party-backed Republican President appealing to an angry and frustrated American public who wanted to show that they can punch their enemies on the nose, would the British public support that kind of military action? I believe better planning assumption is that we would fight with the Americans only when our principal European allies were willing to do so as well. Not only does that make great sense, but it is absolutely vital to
12 Nov 2010 : Column 444
I congratulate the Government on their defence treaties with the French. Surely, that must be the way forward. I welcome Liam Fox and David Cameron to the world of European co-operative partnership, as they describe it-I call it pooled sovereignty but I do not see much difference. In a review that leaves so many major gaps in our key capabilities, surely, instead of being reluctant about European co-operation, the Government should now embrace it with enthusiasm.
Lord Chidgey: My Lords, as a young man, I had what I consider to be the great good fortune: to have been trained and educated to become a professional engineer by what was then the Admiralty and to be prepared to become a manager in one of her Majesty's then several Royal Naval dockyards in Portsmouth, which we all know is the home of the Royal Navy. So I have great affinity with the remarks made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce. I do not want to try to emulate the considered remarks made by many noble and gallant Lords today, but I would like to look at another aspect of the SDSR, particularly the concerns about security and stability.
"We must find more effective ways to tackle risks to our national security-taking an integrated approach, both across government and internationally, to identify risks early and treat the causes, rather than having to deal with the consequences".
In the review, the Government propose to do that by doubling DfID investment in tackling and preventing conflict within ODA rules by recognising the direct link between instability and conflict. When we fail to prevent conflicts, the military interventions which might follow cost far more.
The SDSR confirms that ODA funding is to double in real terms by 2015 for failed states. That is in recognition of the lessons that have been learnt in dealing with fragile and conflict-affected states. That additional funding brings with it additional challenges in the management of disbursements, the monitoring of audit control and, of course, the monitoring of delivery of that aid. In my view, there has to be robust oversight of the way in which taxpayers' money is being spent. The most effective way is through accountability to Parliament. Parliament needs to know where ODA disbursement is going and it needs to see it being disbursed transparently. That delivery of aid and development for security and stabilisation has to be seen to be effectively monitored and properly evaluated.
I understand that the Government plan to achieve transparency in aid by establishing what I believe is called an independent commission for aid, by introducing what is called an aid transparency guarantee, and by the intention to press for an international aid transparency initiative. They are all very valuable concepts and strategies. To whom will the commission be accountable? For aid effectiveness to be assured, Parliament needs to have full oversight and full scrutiny of such a body,
12 Nov 2010 : Column 445
The stability unit aims to be at the cutting edge of delivering the programme of stability and security in failing states, which is a very important and valuable arm of our whole approach to security. Other donor nations are following the United Kingdom's example. The stability unit is the hub which collects, analyses and disseminates the lessons that are to be based on the experience fed back from deployed personnel. I understand that at the moment stability unit personnel are deployed in about a dozen countries, five of which are in Africa, including two in the Government's concept and designation of the most fragile states, Sudan and Somalia.
You cannot underestimate the impact of conflict on development, security and stability. Twenty-two of the world's 34 most failing states are in or emerging from conflict. The cost of conflict in Africa from 1990 to 2005 is estimated to have been $284 billion. In the past decade, there has been a 50 per cent increase in deaths from crisis situations, particularly from starvation through food shortages. To cite our Prime Minister:
In their funding of conflict prevention in fragile states in Africa, I urge the Government not to overlook the issues and problems in the Great Lakes region. It is okay to say that Sudan is our top priority as a failed state, but there are other implications in the region that have the potential to be just as, if not more, serious. In the White Paper, Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty, the Government note that they must tackle the root causes of instability, with an emphasis on fragile states, but I want them to recognise the need for regional security and reform-regional justice mechanisms, combined with regional institutional strengthening.
There is a prime example of why we need such a regional strategy for failing states. Take, for example, the Lord's Resistance Army, which is now becoming a particular problem in the Great Lakes region. The LRA started in Uganda in the late 1980s. It was forced out of Uganda by improved security and settled in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it is now affecting South Sudan. It is estimated that the LRA has killed more than 2,000 people, abducted more than 2,500 and displaced more than 400,000. Clearly, co-ordination between regional UN missions is weak and information sharing pretty limited. According to the 2010 Failed States Index, Somalia came first, Sudan came third, but the DRC is fifth-too close to be ignored.
Can the Minister confirm that the Government's stability and security strategy will extend to include the DRC, Rwanda and the Great Lakes region? There are growing concerns over the blurring of lines between the roles, responsibilities and objectives of civilian and military participants in delivering aid and introducing stability. That threatens not only the humanitarian space but the effectiveness of aid delivery. Aid work has become more difficult and dangerous in conflict zones where we also have military involvement-in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in particular. Local aid
12 Nov 2010 : Column 446
In other theatres where we have no military presence-Sudan, Somalia, the DRC, and so forth-aid staff are increasingly at risk from criminals engaged in kidnapping and ransom. We have to question the competence of military organisations to deliver aid and state building programmes as an adjunct to their primary task: providing security and stability. Can the Minister shed some light on the Government's plans to create a holistic approach to delivering aid and providing security in conflict states?
The Government have stated that their aid programme will be results-driven with full transparency and disclosure of payments and disbursements. There remains a key issue of tackling international corruption, which blights development delivery and neuters economic progress. For example, the OECD confirms that tax evasion and corruption cost more than the entire international aid programme-in fact, equivalent to four times the sum of money needed to fund the whole of the millennium development goal programme each and every year.
I recognise that this debate is long and that many people wish to make their contributions, so I will finish my remarks. I endorse the plan to support our national security by increasing aid in a range of conflict-affected and fragile countries to some 30 per cent of the official development assistance budget. I believe it is good for development and poverty reduction. It enhances national security and the long-term interest in supporting stability. It enables us to tackle foreign conflict upstream more effectively across government with diplomats, military and development experts working together to support each other.
Lord Walker of Aldringham: My Lords, I very much welcome the profile that the current security and defence debate has given to the whole business of defence over recent months. The national security strategy is a very commendable attempt to look into the future and isolate the threats and risks that we face so that we are in the best place to deal with them. However, like many other noble Lords and noble and gallant Lords, I am quite clear that it is always the unexpected that happens, and it will be the unexpected that happens next time.
it seems, sadly, that these notions are patently not carried through, and I cannot help but reflect that as a country we seem to be rather bad at defence reviews. We either get them wrong because we do not resource them properly when we have come up with a good
12 Nov 2010 : Column 447
At first reading, it seems that all three services have lost a similar number of personnel and each has lost a bit of its equipment. In terms of our envisaged deployments, the largest now is a third smaller than it has been until this moment, the brigade-sized force for deployment is equally a third smaller and we have a few less tanks, guns, ships and aircraft. An outsider looking in might well be forgiven for judging that the review is merely a salami-slicing exercise with equal pain for everybody and that same outsider might see it as a touch incoherent. If as a student at staff college I had suggested to my instructor that we would have an aircraft carrier but no aircraft to fly off it, or that we should spend £1 billion or more on a new aircraft carrier only for it to be put immediately into mothballs, or that a minuscule garrison, such as that on the Falklands, would be sufficient to stave off a surprise attack from a determined enemy, I would certainly not be standing before noble Lords now.
However, they are the easy targets. What I would like to do is focus on something that is much less visible to the readers of the SDSR but is more insidious in the longer term. It is about our men and women, who have already been mentioned by one or two noble Lords. I will have to use the Army as the example or it will get too complicated, but please read across for the other two services. The physical effect that an army can have, even when it is constrained by resources, can be multiplied by the reputation that that army has in the minds of its enemies and allies alike. The reputation of the British Army comes from the soldiers who man it, and they exhibit a very particular cocktail of characteristics. The British soldier has always been somebody seeking a bit of roving and adventure, even with the off-chance that he might have to lay down his life for his country. In the past decade alone, we have seen him in Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not surprising therefore that this busy little Army is well recruited. But the soldier now reads that,
Oh, that we should be able to achieve all of that when we do everything. But "more selective" than what? We may be more selective than we were about Iraq, but are we going to stop being good members of NATO or deny our friends in need a bit of help? Indeed, we have just made a new French friend. You cannot shape the battlefield from Whitehall and exit strategies will always be contingent upon events in theatre. What is more, idle hands will make Tommy a very dull boy.
The British soldier's sense of professionalism is of central importance to him. Question it, or undermine it, and you upset him greatly. His equipment too is of
12 Nov 2010 : Column 448
Financial reward has never been, and today still is not, his mainspring, but he expects to be treated fairly, and he wants and needs to be valued by the nation that he serves. But he now has uncertainties about his terms and conditions of service as he sees the continuity of education allowance, public service pensions, housing and post-service medical care all under pressure. As we have heard already, and as we shall see shortly, Professor Hew Strachan's report will make clear that there is a long way to go before we can be satisfied that the so-called military covenant is properly in place.
Even within the initial reduction of 7,000 in the Army, we will see people returning from operational duty to find that they are being made redundant. Many noble Lords will have seen that unedifying interview on the television of the Harrier pilot at Joint Headquarters who expressed, with suppressed anger and frustration, that he was being done out of a job. What price a fair deal?
On the wider front, the Army is coming home. But we have no real idea of how much leaving Germany will cost us. We will need to leave everything in the exact order and acceptable condition that the Germans want, and we have no real idea of the costs of rebarracking and providing training facilities for 20,000 troops and rehousing their families here. Those costs will lie where they fall, to the detriment of all of us-something that is very apparent to our commanders. We should not underestimate how damaging the cumulative effect of all of this can be on both recruiting and retention, but equally on the quality of those who seek to join the services. It may not be noticeable for several years, but it will become apparent, not least among our special forces.
Like many noble Lords, I too fear that this defence review has failed us again. It has not been sufficiently strategic; it has been done at such a speed that it has not been thorough enough; its outcome is not resourced; and, while I accept that there are some industrial and procurement handcuffs that have had to be considered, it has been driven, rather than constrained by, resources. Only time will tell, but this defence review could well be the catalyst for an irreversible outflow of quality and we may have embarked on a course in which the consequence, unintended or not, will be a steady dilution of the excellence of our Armed Forces.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, during the previous Parliament, I had an opportunity to go to Camp Bastion in Helmand and on to Kandahar. The
12 Nov 2010 : Column 449
Even flying in across that huge and rugged terrain showed the danger of willing the ends without willing the means. As we held discussions at Bastion, two things became very clear: that we had, and I think still have, a persistent shortage of helicopter lift capacity; and that has there been a slow-some out there would say an unconscionably slow-development of adequately armoured vehicles for transporting personnel. Particularly this weekend, we need to recognise that a heavy price is being paid for those failures. I have my views on how such failures have occurred, but this is not the time to introduce a partisan note. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, I will leave history to be the judge.
As many other noble Lords have said, we are now a medium-size power and we have to keep this at the forefront of our mind if we are to avoid again confusing means and ends. We are a medium-size power with a population of 60 million and a power with a period of extreme financial stringency ahead that must necessarily inform and guide our actions. I welcome the document that we are debating today because it provides a reality check and some common sense.
I welcome the document in particular for two reasons, the first of which is its emphasis on cyberoperations. Last year, I had the privilege of serving under my noble friend Lord Jopling on a European Union Committee inquiry into cyberwarfare that resulted in the report Protecting Europe against large-scale cyber-attacks. The scale of cybercrime, cybersnooping and cyberintelligence was an eye-opener to me. The use of botnets, Trojan malwares and other extraordinarily named devices provides a cheap and easily disguised way of causing maximum damage. Therefore, I welcome the fact that we are putting increased emphasis on cybersecurity. However, by its very nature, that is not a national but an international problem. The European Network and Information Security Agency is inconveniently-and, in my view, unhappily-based in Heraklion in Crete, but, be that as it may, it is an international and a European response. I was disappointed that the review gives a higher priority to linking with the United States than to linking with ENISA.
Secondly, I welcome the renewed attention being paid to the Armed Forces covenant, to which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Walker, have referred. I should declare an interest as chairman of the Armed Forces Charities Advisory Committee. Inter alia, the covenant provides for reasonable periods at home between unaccompanied overseas tours. I regret to say that in recent years, the line between those periods has become increasingly blurred. Putting that right is not just a matter of honour-although it is a matter of honour-but a matter of practicality. I am not a military man, but I believe that, if the practice continues unchecked, it will have an increasingly serious impact on the manning of our Armed Forces. That will not be seen at the
12 Nov 2010 : Column 450
In that connection, as the noble Lord, Lord Hutton, said, we need to get to the root of today's article in the Times. It cannot be that a corporal who loses both legs in a bomb blast will miss out on £500,000 in pension and benefit-related payments. We must discover what the truth of that is-I have no idea whether it is true-and get to the bottom of it if we are to keep faith with our men and women in the Armed Forces.
We have done less well on this part of the review than on the military side. I fear that we live in a world of increasing intolerance and, above all, of an unwillingness to compromise. We live in a world in which to compromise is to be seen to be weak and is portrayed as such, yet the readiness to compromise is the essential oil that keeps a pluralistic democracy functioning.
The challenges of Muslim fundamentalism are well documented, but we are starting to see the emergence of movements with similar certainties in Western countries, most recently with the rise of the Tea Party movement in the United States. It has been written that, for fundamentalists,
"The constitution is the new 10 commandments for God's chosen people. It is not negotiable. The problem with this fundamentalism-as with Islamic, Jewish, Hindu ... is that there is no dialogue to be had, no pragmatic give and take with those outside the movement of the true believers ... The process of democratic politics risks breaking down".
"The Tea Party ... are liable to interpret setbacks and frustrations, at home and abroad, not as a consequence of the inevitable and growing constraints on American power-but as a result of some sort of 'stab in the back', whether by 'liberal elites' in Washington, or conniving foreigners overseas. That, in turn, risks leading to an unstable foreign policy that is aggressive, self-righteous and self-pitying in equal measures."
So what does a medium-size power such as the UK do to encourage the millions of non-fundamentalists to continue to believe that a pluralistic, liberal system can help maintain a more stable world for us all to live in? We should not, I regret to say, send an aircraft carrier-with or without aircraft-as such an approach will tend to reinforce mindsets rather than change them. We need now to focus on what has become known as our "soft power" assets. For various reasons, the United Kingdom is particularly well placed in this field: the English language has become the world's
12 Nov 2010 : Column 451
As I understand it, the funding of the overseas service will pass from the Foreign Office to the BBC. Some argue that this is a welcome development that gives further evidence of the service's editorial independence from the Government-the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, did so in yesterday's debate-but the decision raises real concerns. First, the BBC is operationally hard-wired to provide news for the United Kingdom. Indeed, its charter requires that and I am not sure whether the present charter agreement even permits the BBC to fund the overseas service. My noble friend may care to look at the detail of the agreement-on page 39, paragraph 75-where the issue is laid out. Secondly, and no less important, the BBC is structurally oriented towards its domestic audience. The trust, the ultimate protector, has representatives from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, but where is the champion for the overseas service?
That is not to say that the overseas service is perfect-it is not-but the ability to project impartial news to people who cannot get it elsewhere, and often to do so in their own language, is a vital contribution to the soft power of this country. We need to ensure that, in an age of financial stringency, there are adequate protections against a slash-and-burn approach to what may become an orphan service.
Lord MacKenzie of Culkein: My Lords, I should declare an interest as I have a stepson who is a senior engineer officer and a cousin who is a deck officer, both in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. I do not come to the debate with military experience but I do come from a background of seafarers, including master mariners, on both sides of my family. I have been closely associated with the sea and have always maintained a close interest in defence matters.
There is little more important than the security of our nation, not least when we are a maritime nation and nearly all of our goods arrive by sea. Of course, Afghanistan is the number one priority, and it is right that the Government should say that they will not do anything that will have an adverse effect on our operations there-although I find it difficult to understand, if it is correct, that there appears to be a reduction in the number of Chinooks ordered by the Labour Government. Given the excoriation of the Labour Government for allegedly not providing enough helicopters, there is now an uncharacteristic silence from the other side of the House and their friends in the press. There can never be enough helicopters to do the heavy lifting in Afghanistan. I therefore look forward to the Minister
12 Nov 2010 : Column 452
I now turn to the issue of the aircraft carriers without fixed-wing capability. We must now be a laughing stock in military and political circles throughout the world. Friends of mine in Australia and Canada certainly think it is a bit of a giggle, but it is much too serious a matter for that. Why are we getting rid of the highly versatile Harrier? Such carrier-borne aircraft can make all the difference if, for example, we have to extract British and perhaps other citizens from some war-torn or failed state. We did it in Sierra Leone. Who is to say that such a situation will not arise somewhere else? We did not foresee Sierra Leone. We certainly did not foresee the Falklands when the Government of the day were busily planning to sell HMS Invincible to the Australians and withdrawing our ice patrol ship.
The Falklands war provided a classic example of where defence planning assumptions about foreseeable problems can go horribly wrong. Planning assumptions and cuts were seen as a weakness to be exploited. For the future, it is difficult to perceive that not being able to fly any fixed-wing aircraft from an aircraft carrier for a decade or more can possibly be seen as a position of strength. The decision to scrap the Harrier is a grave mistake.
Of course, all Governments can and do make mistakes. I think that it was a Labour Government who scrapped the carrier-borne airborne early warning Fairey Gannet aircraft. This was a very effective aircraft that gave the fleet early warning of enemy aircraft attacking at low level. No doubt that was done on military advice. So we did not have the Gannet in the Falklands, and the Argentine air force was brilliantly able to exploit that gap with its low-level attacks. We lost a lot of brave sailors, troops and fine ships of the Royal Navy, the merchant navy and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. Had the Argentines been able to correctly prime all the bombs that hit our ships, the outcome would have been catastrophic. Much of that might have been mitigated if we had had those little airborne early-warning Fairey Gannets. For the want of a few Harriers, we may make a similar mistake.
Whatever the planners plan, and whatever assumptions they make about possible flashpoints, the only certainty is that we do not know what the next few years might bring. Of course we must do our best in planning for the future, but the best plan of all is belt and braces. There is no strategic sense in not keeping some of these wonderfully versatile assets, such as the Harrier. There is no strategic sense in having flat-top ships not able to fly anything but helicopters. Will the Minister accept that this is an exercise that is in complete contradiction to the views so recently expressed by the Secretary of State for Defence? Will he accept that the gaps created by the demise of the Harrier will be an exercise in political fingers being tightly crossed for the next decade lest it all goes horribly wrong? The trouble with it going horribly wrong is that we could have underequipped Armed Forces trying to sweep up the mess, with all the possible consequences, or that we cannot sweep up the mess at all.
An aircraft carrier with Harriers on board will be a deterrent. Deterrents stop problems. The Harrier has a flexibility in expeditionary operations that the Tornado does not have, and a reach and firepower that helicopters cannot. I hope that it is not yet too late to revisit the decision to scrap the Harrier. Keep them all and a smaller fleet of Tornados, or vice versa, but some Harriers should remain, and the Navy and the Fleet Air Arm must keep the capability to fly fixed-wing aircraft from aircraft carriers at all times in this uncertain world.
Speaking of deterrents, will the Minister also tell the House what is to be done in relation to the withdrawal of the Nimrod MRA4? How are we going to protect our deterrent submarines? How are we going to deal with long-range search and rescue, where the Nimrods play a superb and vital role? How are we going to meet our obligations under the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue as well as the safety of life at sea conventions? Is it planned to buy or lease maritime patrol aircraft? If so, what are the costs compared with continuing with the MRA4, which is already paid for? How are we going to deal with airborne early warning if, unlikely as it may be, we have to reinforce the Falklands?
The headline above the letter from the chiefs in today's Times suggests that continuing debate is "carping". I hope that that is not the case. I hope that we can go on debating and discussing some of these matters. I am grateful that we have been able to debate this very important matter today. I look forward to the Minister's response.
Lord Bramall: My Lords, one of the most important parts of the strategic defence and security review was the establishment of the National Security Council, chaired at the highest level by the Prime Minister with his own designated staff, whose task it would be to develop and, one hoped, to oversee an updated national strategy. It was to cover, among other matters, vital interests, likely and even possible threats-international and domestic-and a range of state powers that we had to be prepared to take in the short and longer term. It would also lay down what the country might require its Armed Forces and the other complementary agencies to be able to do.
I greatly welcomed this innovation, because it should have produced the planning assumptions in terms of priorities, scale, warning time, concurrency of possible involvements, reliable allied co-operation and broad financial restraints without which no detailed review could be coherent or relevant. It also had to be the only way of trying to balance the strictly military requirement to defend the realm and its established interests, together with any other aspirations in the international arena, against the resources that Parliament would be prepared to allot and above all to sustain.
The trouble was that such a fundamental and intricate exercise needed not only considerable thought, realistic insight, vision and some grasp of history by wise, clear-headed people but also, inevitably, a reasonable amount of time to think things through properly. Yet, in parallel, there was an even more urgent exercise
12 Nov 2010 : Column 454
It would have been surprising if this exercise, rushed through in barely four months, came up with a blueprint that was truly in the up-to-date national interest. The fact that in the light of all the factors and pressures-political, strategic, economic and industrial-the review has come up with, at least for the moment, perhaps as good an optimum solution as could be expected owes much, I believe, to the direct interest and involvement of the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister, the urgent and compelling requirements of Afghanistan, if we are successfully to complete our vital work within five years, and a general realisation of how invariably this country has needed really effective professional Armed Forces.
As far as I can judge, the NSC, although not properly constituted and not fully effective-I hope that it will become both those things-and however rushed, has come up with some helpful strategic guidance and assumptions. The operation in Afghanistan is to have the highest priority and is even in equipment terms to be enhanced. The cost of actual operations is to continue-I hope that everyone will note this, because the Prime Minister said so-to be met out of the Treasury reserve.
The review naturally highlighted good intelligence as being all important and often by far the best way of heading off the most urgent threat to us at the moment of international terrorism. It itemised the range of state power that this country has, under various circumstances, to be prepared for. That ranges from active dynamic diplomacy through power projection for conflict prevention, humanitarian operations and peacekeeping, to limited and highly selective-and, perhaps, pre-emptive on hard intelligence-military action, and even, almost always with allies, larger-scale intervention in order properly to protect our established interests.
Secondly, in giving broad guidance on size, shape and equipment type required, the review made a distinction between what is manifestly needed now and in the foreseeable future and that which, because of the volatility and uncertainty of the international scene, is required more in the form of a firm and experienced base for expansion and equipment development in the longer term, after a degree of notice and warning time but possibly against more sophisticated opposition. Of course, because you can often get these things wrong, as we have in the past-you can back the wrong horses-there has to be an element of flexibility. The point has been made that the review must be redone at least every five years if not even more regularly.
On the review itself, I personally can find nothing to be concerned about. The decision on the exact successor to our present Trident nuclear deterrent, which after all could be extended to serve effectively for at least another 15 years, has been put off to 2015. This interim period will at least give us much needed
12 Nov 2010 : Column 455
Yet some misgivings undoubtedly remain. There are misgivings about the carrier muddle and the shortage of destroyers and frigates, misgivings about the heavy reductions in the size of the Army and the future of the reserves and misgivings about where the covenant exactly stands at the moment. There is also sadness and sorrow about the early retirement of the highly versatile Harrier. However, as those things have been dealt with by other noble Lords at some length, because of time I will not deal with them any further.
The Nimrod saga was clearly a disgrace and should, among other things, be studied carefully when the whole structure of the Ministry of Defence, which has been for some time strong on second-guessing and bureaucratic procrastination and very weak on dynamic and effective action, is examined by my noble friend Lord Levene. For the moment-this is what is on the table-the SDSR has left us with, and in many places enhanced, a viable Armed Forces presence capable of playing, at short notice, an appropriate role in the protection of our country's interests overseas and nearer to home. Also, in conjunction with allies, but if necessary on our own, it can be well led, as our service men and women have been and continue to be. They will still, most importantly, be able to display that remarkable degree of motivation and dedication that sets them apart as professional forces in this troubled world. That does not happen by accident; it happens only because of the way in which they have been trained, led and organised over a number of years.
I hope that the review will be looked on in a positive way and implemented with a will. Many of us who have had a great deal of experience in this field can give it a measure of encouragement and support. There is, however, one important caveat, which I want to stress. The National Security Council took a conscious decision and announced publicly that defence and security should be cut less than the activities of other departments and, presumably, by less than the Treasury had at first demanded and that the NATO figure of 2 per cent of gross domestic product should be held to. Some might say that that is little enough in all conscience. These changes, both reductions and enhancements, must have been costed and have contributed to the 7.5 per cent in the defence budget, which is what the National Security Council agreed at the highest level. The Treasury must now be held to that and must not, as has invariably happened in the past-usually before the ink was even dry-start to undermine the whole review by further restricting the cash flow by various means. Every review over the years-some of them have been very good-has been affected immediately in this way, which has had an appalling effect. It has downgraded the expectations announced to the public, minimised political and parliamentary intentions, served up endless trouble for the future, which is partly why we have had this yawning black hole, and rebounded dangerously, not only on operational performance but
12 Nov 2010 : Column 456
I hope that Ministers will take heed of these words, which are based on long experience, because, with the Treasury short of its full pound of flesh, it is all the more likely that the money will not be there to pay for the changes in the defence review. The Government say that they are cutting this and bringing that down and getting rid of the "Ark Royal" and that we will be left with this, that and the other, but we will find that, if we are not careful, the money will not be there to pay for even that. That would be absolutely disastrous. This has to be fought at the very highest level in the Cabinet and by the Chiefs of Staff in the Ministry of Defence. Ultimately, we have to not just hold the line as it is at the moment but in the future do very much better with the financial resources, or the whole pack of cards will collapse and we will be in for real trouble.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, it may be helpful to the House if I say that I estimate that at the current rate of progress this debate is likely to end at about six o'clock. A number of noble Lords have told me that that may place them in some difficulties as regards trains and flights to catch. I hope that noble Lords will bear that in mind.
At the splendid ceremony that we had last week for the Armada canvases, I found myself standing next to a heavily uniformed naval officer who was looking at the canvas showing the fleet of Drake and Howard just on the tail and about to engage the Spanish. "God", he said, "they had it so easy". I said that it was the first time that I had ever heard anyone say that the British fleet had it easy in beating the Armada. "No, no," he said, "you don't understand me, sir. They had it easy because they were all teeth and no tail". I asked him what he meant by that and he said that the present Royal Navy had no teeth left because all the money was spent on the huge tail of administrative burden that drags us back. If we could just have our teeth back, he said, we could have a much better and more effective force for a much smaller administrative tail that we have to drag around behind us.
When I was listening to the comment from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, about the four Type 22s that have to come out of commission in five months' time, I thought how close to the mark that was. Those four Type 22s have at present a total crew of 768. Although those vessels might not be state of the art, if naval officers and men are no longer sailing on them, how many pirates will be captured by 768 clerks and civil servants? How many tonnes of narcotics will they be able to capture in the Caribbean? How many miles of Britain's storm-driven shores will they be able to patrol of a cold winter's night to the exclusion of any alien influences who want to come ashore? I suggest the answer is that there will not be one hostage
12 Nov 2010 : Column 457
The British Navy has had a long record of making do very well with assets which would appear to be coming to the end of their sell-by date. The 54 year-old HMS "Victory" led a fleet with an average age of 26 into Trafalgar. At Jutland, if Beatty's seven battle cruisers are taken out, the average age of our fleet was 18 and, although we are not quite sure whether we won that battle, at least the German fleet never dared to come out of port again-so we did to some extent. The extent to which the frigates are a problem is that even if the Type 22s are getting near the obsolescence level, they can still do a lot of very useful work which will release the burden on the Type 23s-the jewels of the frigate fleet that we have, and the vessels which we need to look to.
That point came home very loud and clear to me when recently I had the privilege of a trip to Portsmouth to visit one of the new Type 45s. It is a magnificent ship but it is wrong to describe it as the finished article. It is work in progress; notably, it is lacking in the full sufficiency of its anti-submarine protection at the moment, while it has absolutely no decoy equipment on board; there is just a blank hole on the deck. It also needs the permanent presence of a Type 23 to protect its rear against submarines in any deployment where it has a risk. The Type 22s might not be able to do that job adequately at present, but the Type 23 would. If the Type 22s were being kept and used to do the patrol work off Somalia and in the Caribbean, that would at least remove the burden on the Type 23s.
We also need to consider other issues with the Type 45s. At the moment, they are armed with a wonderful system for anti-air resistance and can knock out 48 successive incoming missiles with a high level of accuracy and reliability. One then has to ask: what happens to the 49th missile when it comes in, if that utilises the entire capacity? The answer to that is very strange: "Ah well, we can override the weapons system of another Type 45, access their weapons and fire those as well". The question then comes: "Does that not mean that when you have used those 48 up and still have not got rid of the invader, you are both sitting ducks in the water to be eliminated and so is the ship you are supposed to be protecting"? That means in turn that you have to have a hunter-killer behind them the whole time to take out the point of attack. The only viable and reliable flotilla in which you can send those ships out is to send the Type 45 with a Type 23 behind it, then a hunter-killer behind them to do the job for them.
If we look back at the history of the Royal Navy, it has, to take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, a wonderful record of adapting to cope with the thing that nobody could foresee coming. After Trafalgar, the Royal Navy was engaged in one of the longest, most bitter and, in terms of men and equipment, most ruinously expensive engagements because it had the responsibility of implementing the suppression of the slave traders. The noble Lord, Lord Soley, referred to
12 Nov 2010 : Column 458
One hundred and thirty years later, the Royal Navy did a very similar adaptation when it had to cope with the not wholly-expected dominance of the U-boat in the north Atlantic. It did that by developing a Yarmouth fishing trawler into what eventually became the Flower class, of which it built 678 at a total cost of £22 million. That sounds like a bargain today, considering what it did for us. The Flower class was a wonderful ship. Today we have a ship called the River class, which has gone into the water as a minesweeper. It has already been spoken of very favourably this morning. I suggest that the Royal Navy is missing a trick here. If it is seeking to hold on to its Type 22s, which it should-the same arguments apply to the "Ark Royal" and the Harriers as applied to the Type 22s; we should not get rid of something which is still useful-it should be looking at an upgrade of the River class to become a fully fledged gunboat with improved kill capability and speed, which would then be able to play a very effective role in anti-piracy and patrol work. You can get two of those for the cost of a frigate, minimum, fully upgraded. You could put on board an effective GPS positioning and reconnaissance system as well and it would not be an expensive product. You could include some anti-submarine capability as well. There is real value in doing a serious redesign of the River class and producing prototypes to see what they could do for us. They might be a very cheap and effective alternative to give us the teeth we need, as that officer was saying.
The Navy has had a wonderful history of delivering against the record and at above value. Let it get back to doing some creative thinking by looking back at its history at what it has done previously and doing it again.
Lord Touhig: My Lords, on the eve of this armistice weekend, when the whole country will remember those who have sacrificed their lives in past wars and in present conflicts, it is a privilege to stand here and pay tribute to the wonderful men of Britain's Armed Forces. Like many others in this House, and as a former Defence Minister, I know at first hand how brave, dedicated and professional our Armed Forces are. They really do represent the very best in Britain. In all that we say today, we should keep in mind how much we owe those who are willing to put their lives on the line in defence of our country, our way of life, our liberty and our security.
As a Welshman standing here in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, I pay particular tribute to the Welsh Guards, whose wristband I am proud to wear. In recent years they have served with distinction in both Iraq and Afghanistan and, in doing so, have
12 Nov 2010 : Column 459
If we are to honour our obligations to our Armed Forces, it is vital that we do all we can to keep them as safe as possible. That includes ensuring that we have the best kit. Despite the efforts of many good people in the Ministry of Defence, it is a lasting regret that procurement in the department continues to be problematic. I join others in this House and beyond who call for real improvements in the way we procure equipment so that we can get the best kit at the best price in the shortest time.
However, keeping our troops safe is not just a matter of giving them the best kit; it is about ensuring that our Armed Forces have the best possible training. It is quite obvious that the better trained our Armed Forces are, the better they can do the job. For that reason, the Labour Government pledged to modernise the way our forces are trained. Crucial to modernising defence training was the planned tri-service training academy at St Athan in south Wales. The plans, which were announced in 2007, would have created a more flexible, responsive and effective system of training. We would have seen a national centre of excellence for specialist training, which would have improved how our forces are trained and enabled them to do a better job in defending our country and maintaining our security. Now the Government have decided not to proceed and may even cancel the whole project, despite the Secretary of State saying that the training academy could be an "aid to recruitment" in the future.
What is certain is that St Athan would have given our Armed Forces a world-class training centre which I am sure Members on all sides of the House feel that they richly deserve. The St Athan defence training academy would have been equipped with all the latest technology and would have included top-grade accommodation that our forces are entitled to expect. More than that, it was intended that British business and industry could buy packages of training from the academy, which would certainly have offered them great advantages and benefitted our wider economy as we move out of recession. St Athan would also have provided high quality sports and recreational facilities for our forces, which is exactly what they need when they are training. It would, in short, have been a top quality facility to provide top quality training to our top quality Armed Forces. Yet this is now in jeopardy.
The Government have sought to justify the decision to scrap the training academy on the basis that it is a necessary economy in times of public spending cuts. In reality, it is just another example of the muddled economic thinking that has become characteristic of this Government. To cut back on investment in training in times of economic difficulty is equivalent to eating our seed corn. The academy would have created at least 2,000 new jobs in south Wales, thereby increasing the defence footprint. It would have been the largest defence project ever to be located in Wales. It had the capacity to help transform south Wales and deliver growth and prosperity. One thing the Government does not seem to have grasped is that without growth
12 Nov 2010 : Column 460
While the Academy would have cost around £l4 billion, spread over 30 years it was affordable. Furthermore, in considering that level of spending, we have to take account of the associated costs of maintaining and keeping the present ageing training facilities. I hope the Minister will open his mind to the logic of this case and tell the Secretary of State to think again about St Athan. I earnestly hope that, when the Government announce their future defence training plans next spring, they will have been persuaded of the case for St Athan to go ahead.
I am afraid that the way in which the Government have approached the St Athan issue is symptomatic of this defence review, which is neither strategic nor meets our needs for the 21st century. The review has been carried out in haste with the aim of cutting spending rather than protecting our interests from harm. Satirists might have had great fun with the concept of aircraft carriers without aircraft, but the defence of Great Britain is no laughing matter.
My noble friends Lord West and Lord Reid have spoken in recent weeks about the reckless decision to phase out the Harrier jets, which will leave a massive capability gap which other noble Lords spoke about this morning. A number of respected former senior military have this week said that they are concerned, and warned against scrapping the "Ark Royal". I agree with them. What this Government are doing to the Royal Navy is equivalent to sending Nelson to the Battle of Trafalgar in a rowing boat. The defence of the United Kingdom is too important to be sacrificed on the altar of cuts based on ideology and not common sense. This review is driven by costs and not strategy, by the Treasury and not the military. This Government will rue the day that they agreed it.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I declare an interest as a co-president of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament- PNND-which is a global network of over 700 parliamentarians in 75 countries. We work to prevent nuclear proliferation and to achieve nuclear disarmament. We aim to encourage our Governments to hold to treaties that already exist and to continue to work on them. We work closely with the UN and support the Secretary-General's five-point plan. We do not expect miracles, and we are not expecting disarmament tomorrow.
Today, I am not going to talk specifically about Trident, or about the decision to put off that decision, for the very reason that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, mentioned: that it just buys us time to explore the negotiations further. I want to make some more general comments about the SDSR in the wider context of tackling nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
There are a few good things in the review. The Government have continued the useful steps towards greater transparency and talking openly about plans and numbers of warheads. One of the measures of
12 Nov 2010 : Column 461
"We will continue to work to control proliferation and to make progress on multilateral disarmament ... to take tangible steps towards a safer and more stable world where countries with nuclear weapons feel able to relinquish them".
"Feel able" is not an adequate phrase with which to recognise the situation. It does not recognise our international commitments under the treaties that we have already signed. It does not recognise the urgent necessity of nuclear weapon removal in a world where proliferation means that dirty bomb material is easier to get hold of. It does not recognise the cybersecurity issues that Dr Liam Fox raised when he talked about the cyberattack that deactivated six Minuteman missiles. What if hackers could activate them? It does not recognise a world where near-miss accidents are horribly common. It does not recognise the feeling of all the non-nuclear states that this issue is really urgent. I hope the wording does not reflect our Government's commitment to making further progress and recognising that such progress is urgent.
Earlier this year, I spent four days on the Japanese-sponsored peace boat with some of the survivors and children of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Their testimonies of what happened 65 years ago were, of course, very moving. However, some of the knowledge that they shared with us was even more shocking, and that was the pictures of their chromosomes and the damage that was done to them. Their chromosomes are wrecked for all time. The genetic damage is there, pictorially, for all to see. It shows that the damage done by nuclear weapons is not only to the people who are killed then; it affects the human race and its genetics for all time.
That is one of the reasons why the rest of the world expects a more energetic commitment from us. However, the core reason is the deal that was made more than 40 years ago in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in 1968, when the nuclear-weapon states gave a commitment to the non-nuclear weapon states that they would
12 Nov 2010 : Column 462
Last Wednesday, the Secretary of State, William Hague, gave an excellent Canning House lecture on the UK-Latin American relationship. He highlighted the fact that Latin America had given moral leadership to the region in that huge nuclear weapons-free zone. It is promising that nuclear weapons-free regions are increasing. There is a move to make the Arctic a nuclear weapons-free zone, followed by the Antarctic, and an extremely important Middle East conference is coming up in 2012 to establish-we all very much hope-a nuclear weapons-free zone there. However, as a nuclear weapons state, we should treat this as an urgent matter and should encourage our friends in the US Senate to take the same attitude towards their new START treaty.
In conclusion, the previous Government made a very good attempt to further this work-that was due in good part to the tremendous work of my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby-and were seen as being seriously committed to achieving nuclear disarmament within a realistic timescale. I am sure that this Government will want to continue on that path, but that is not reflected in the wording of the strategy.
Lord Lyell: My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, has returned to the Chamber-I wonder whether that was because she saw that I was about to speak. Many of your Lordships have spoken of the very distinguished noble and gallant Lords present in the Chamber. Although reference has been made to Mr James Arbuthnot, the chairman of the Select Committee in another place, I hope that your Lordships also appreciate the incredible job done by the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, on the House of Lords defence group. Indeed, I know that that work is much appreciated by my noble friend the Minister. She has assisted my defence studies throughout her time in your Lordships' House.
It might startle your Lordships to hear that somebody who, 50 years and more ago, was a conscript with the Scots Guards would want to concentrate his remarks today in this great debate on this admirable report on our air defence and aeronautical systems. I took some interest in the new Joint Strike Fighter. Alas, my office across the way required a bit of a spring clean. I heaved out a number of documents and was rather startled to find something relating to the 1994 financial year. I found an admirable little booklet on the Joint Strike Fighter, which I think is classified under the United States method as the F-35.
I found all sorts of other interesting information dated 2001. I hope that the Minister will check yesterday's edition of the Scotsman where I noticed a reference to the possibility of having an operational-conversion unit for one or other version of the Joint Strike Fighter-I think it is the F-35C, the carrier version-that I understand is to be acquired in 2010, or later, and is to be our joint weapon with the Typhoon. I noticed a particularly favourable reference to the possibility of the operational-conversion unit being located somewhere
12 Nov 2010 : Column 463
I have another short paragraph in my notes labelled "Harriers and Carriers". Virtually all my remarks were made for me by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce. I have much sympathy for the Minister, because the incoming remarks-I will not call them missiles-from the noble and gallant Lord were such that perhaps only he could take care of them. I think that he will, but they were particularly strong arguments. I would be grateful if the Minister would either tell me in writing or let me know during the debate what will be the fate of the Harriers, which I believe are classified as GR9 or GR9A and which have been updated and taken as role models for the service afloat.
Secondly, there have been references to "Ark Royal". Will she be completely scrapped? I suspect and hope that she will be kept in mothballs and may be useful. The Minister, and the documents that we have, indicate that we will not be acquiring the short take-off and vertical landing version of the Joint Strike Fighter, but we will stick with the F-35C carrier version. I confirm to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, to the Minister and to the noble Lord, Lord Davies, who will speak next, that Harriers are part of my bloodline and bedtime reading. I first visited Royal Air Force Wittering in 1975. I made a further visit in 1978 and have made at least three other visits. I also visited Sea Harriers at Yeovilton and saw these marvellous aircraft operating afloat when I was taken on a splendid firepower demonstration day at Warminster, and on days at sea off Devonport.
Apart from the avionics and electronics in these little aircraft, I understand that the companies involved are also heavily involved in other aspects of electronics, such as in training aids for Trident systems at Royal Naval Base Clyde. My noble friend and I were young soldiers at Warminster. I understand that many of the British Army simulator devices there are an integral part of the same system that is used in avionics.
I must push on. The noble Lord and I both have an interest in Scotland. Would he keep in mind any comments on the further use of the bases in the county of Moray? Royal Air Force Kinloss, which I visited in early 1974, is the base for the Nimrods. It has been announced that the base might be transferred to other use by the Ministry of Defence. Will my noble friend cast his mind, and indeed the minds of his colleagues, to other uses for it? He will be aware that Fort George, with a battalion of infantry, is no major distance away. I hope he may be able to consider putting RAF Kinloss to some other, perhaps non-Royal Air Force, use. I also hope that he will take particular
12 Nov 2010 : Column 464
In conclusion, the House of Lords defence group does not concentrate entirely on fascinating technology and extraordinary things. The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, has pointed out that there are other aspects that she in particular took care of. In 2009, our group went down to visit 16 Air Assault Brigade in Colchester. I spent a particularly uncomfortable morning listening to families there talk about their problems with married quarters and other allied subjects. I used the term "lamentable" then and I repeat it today. Things may have improved. Certainly for single soldiers they were improving greatly. Will the Minister confirm that progress is being made with 16 Air Assault Brigade's accommodation in Colchester? Perhaps he could write to me. I thank him and reiterate how pleased we are to have him, especially, as my noble friend remarked, on account of his noble and particularly gallant grandfather.
Lord Davies of Stamford: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Rosser on so effectively and so definitively refuting the bogus myth of the £38 billion deficit, about which we have heard too much. After my noble friend's refutation, I hope that no one will be so shameless as to purvey that any further. I was going to speak on that but now I do not need to do so.
I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Sterling, make the suggestion that we should have available in the House, and no doubt in the House of Commons as well, on temporary secondment, uniformed officers of the Armed Forces to keep us informed on military and defence matters. That was one of the 40 recommendations of the study on the national recognition of the Armed Forces, which I was privileged to chair three years ago, and it was one of only two recommendations out of the 40 which was not accepted by the previous Government. I hope that, with the advocacy of the noble Lord, we may have more luck with the present Administration on that point.
It has been said, quite rightly, so many times from different sides of the Chamber today that the strategic defence and security review was neither strategic nor a review that I do not need to repeat it. I think that has become the consensus in the country. However, I wish to comment on one very important aspect that has not been mentioned. The lack of consultation in the review process was particularly regrettable. There was no effective consultation with industry. As I have pointed out in the House before, there was only one meeting of the National Defence Industries Council between the election and the defence review. That is a terrible mistake. We now know that there is to be a Green Paper and a White Paper on defence industrial policy. In other words, the Government recognise that there are important consequences for our defence industrial structure of the defence review, but those consequences should have been taken account of in the consideration of the defence review. The defence review should have included precisely what we intended to preserve by way of defence industrial capability and structure in this country.
If the procedure was regrettable, the results of this so-called review have been utterly deplorable. I take in turn a number of the points where there have been devastating reductions in the nation's defence capability. First, I ask the Minister what are the savings from the reduction of the infantry of the AS90 and Challenger 2? My instinct is that the reduction is very small. If you reduce just part of the inventory and not all of it-thank God they did not get rid of all of it-you still have the fixed costs, such as training costs. I suspect that the actual savings-I shall bet a drink in the bar for the noble Lord on this-are very derisory and probably not much of a multiple of the 27 photographers and beauty or vanity consultants, or whatever they are, which the Government have seen fit to take on the public payroll for the benefit of the Prime Minister.
Secondly, I turn to helicopters. The Government have cut in half our order for two Chinooks. I am delighted to take full responsibility for that order. I am very proud that we made that order and that I got rid of the original future medium helicopter project and put the money into buying helicopters off-the-shelf as rapidly as possible. We have heard from the Conservative Benches this afternoon, from the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, that he considers that there are still too few helicopters, but I am very proud that there are now 50 per cent more helicopters on the front line this year in Afghanistan than there were in the summer of last year as a result of the measures that we took. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, that we actually need more. It is a great mistake to cut that order. It is all part of the Government focusing on protecting Afghanistan, which is absolutely right and important, but at the expense of all flexibility for our future ability to respond to different threats so that we shall end up well equipped for Afghanistan and able to fight no more than the last war once we have got through the Afghan conflict. That is a classic mistake to make in defence procurement; it is not one that we made in office, but it is one that I am afraid the coalition is now sadly making.
The prolongation of the Vanguard class and the postponement of the construction of successor class submarines was dealt with so devastatingly by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, that I do not need to enter into that. I just say that it appears, since that announcement was made, that far from saving public money, the Government will end up spending £1.8 billion more on keeping the Vanguard class in the water for that extended time-with the law of diminishing returns which always applies towards the end of the life of any class of naval vessel. That was not a very intelligent decision either.
I come on to the most important issue, which is the decision about the Harriers and carrier strike. I think that the decision to get rid of our Harriers is utterly unforgivable. It is quite the wrong decision. The right decision would have been to do what we were planning to do, and what I was working on at the time of the election. That is to withdraw the Tornados well before the original date, the official date, of 2022-I queried that date when I first saw it-but to withdraw them as and when we were able to upgrade the Typhoon with a ground support capability, with a full suite of weapons, with Paveway IV, Brimstone or its successor, with
12 Nov 2010 : Column 466
I think that the Government think that they are geniuses-not, sadly, military geniuses but geniuses in predicting the future precisely and accurately. What they are saying to the country in this document amounts to this: "We need a carrier strike capability. There are threats in this world to which we might have to respond in desperation with that carrier strike capability. We have to spend the money, we have to invest in that capability, but"-they are telling the nation, "between the years 2011 and 2019, those threats will not arise". How remarkable. How do they do it? I do not know whether they do it by astrology or tarot cards, but one can only either marvel or shake in one's boots that defence planning is being conducted on that basis.
Not surprisingly, that has opened up a very useful and healthy debate about our ability to fulfil some of our obligations-to defend, for example, the Falklands. I am not going to make any judgments about this, I will deal just in facts. The Government are saying that we have the capability, without any carriers, to defend the Falklands. What do we have? We have four Typhoons in Mount Pleasant. We have a company of troops. We have one runway fit for combat aircraft. What happens if, by subterfuge, sabotage, bomb attack, missile, or whatever, that runway is taken out? Presumably, if the Typhoons happen to be in the air at the time, the crew will have to eject, and we certainly cannot expect to be able to replenish the Falklands by airlift.
The Government talk about submarines. We have not got a submarine in the Falklands and I do not think-because they have not told the nation so-that they have any intention of basing a submarine on the Falklands. Let me tell them that if they did, they would have to assign two-probably two and a half-of the hunter killer submarines, Trafalgar class and, potentially, Astute class, to that role alone. That is not provided for in the number that we plan to build-the seven Astutes. If the Government are going to put a submarine there, they had better tell the nation that they are going to do that and explain how. If they are not, if there is not going to be a submarine there, they had better stop saying that submarines provide an adequate protection against a potential invasion of the Falklands. Some very serious issues have come to light over the past few days on this and we need an answer.
Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord. He has been very good at describing how he thinks the money ought to be spent to defend the Falkland Islands. Does he not realise that he and his right honourable friends left the financial arrangements in the Ministry of Defence in a complete shambles: there is no money?
Lord Davies of Stamford: I absolutely do not recognise that. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Rosser has already dealt with that particular falsehood. What is more, I
12 Nov 2010 : Column 467
Lord Selsdon: It is only that those of us who have been in this House for more than 45 years understand modern technology. Will the noble Lord recognise that he is so close to a microphone that he is shaking our eardrums over this side? If he would step back a bit or move away from it, we might find it easier to hear him rather than dying.
The Government have shown what their priorities are. Nothing could be more dramatic than the fact that the Government are giving about £300 million to India by way of aid. India is buying aircraft carriers and aircraft to put on them, and then the Government say that they do not have the money to continue with our own carrier strike capability. In response to the noble Lord, I think that says it all.
Finally, I take the last rag of cloth that protects the nakedness of the Government in these arguments: the Anglo-French alliance. Can we rely on the "Charles de Gaulle" being mobilised to defend the Falklands? I do not think that anybody in this House seriously suggests that we can. All my life, I have been in favour of European defence collaboration and, indeed, of a common European defence policy. I am delighted by the treaty that has been concluded, but any successful relationship of that kind requires three things. The first is that it is done out of conviction, sincerity and long-term commitment. The noble Lord is nodding his head. I hope and pray that that long-term commitment is there. I am not going impugn the good faith of the Government; I am going to assume that it is there, but I have to tell the noble Lord that, because of the background of Dr Fox and Mr Cameron, there is bound to be considerable scepticism on both sides of the channel about that, so the Government are going to have to make sure that by their every word and deed this is taken seriously. Secondly, if you are going to have that kind of relationship, you need a shared view of the world and a shared foreign policy so that you know that your partner is going to take the same decisions and will be there with you when you need him. None of that is present. Thirdly, you need some kind of coherent decision-making structure that can give one confidence that we will be able to work together effectively no matter what the threat is and where it comes from. On that basis, I see enormous scope-not just involving carrier strike but also escorts, tanks, helicopters and so forth-for collaboration and synergies with the French, but those three things are essential, and if the Government can provide them, in that matter they will certainly have my warmest support.
Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: The national security document is important and interesting and has some good parts, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, pointed out. However, it also contains some weaknesses. I am sure that I am not the only Member of your Lordships' House who would like to know more about the relations between the new National Security Council and the old Joint Intelligence Committee-which, so far as I know, having read the late Sir Percy Cradock's admirable history of it, has served us so well in the past.
The document is anti-historical in other ways. For example, it claims that this is the first time that there has been a national security strategy. Those with any kind of historical memory will recall many other statements of this sort-the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, has recalled some of those statements-although they may not have had the same title. I have a good historical memory and can recall the famous 1907 memorandum by the remarkable Sir Eyre Crowe which stated firmly:
The national security document has other weaknesses, in the sense that it is full of jargon. What are the Government doing telling us of emerging economies moving up "the value chain". What is the value chain? Many of us would like to see the Government raise the standard of official writing, perhaps by using the services of experienced writers, of whom there are some in this House, to revise the texts of their publications, as is sometimes done in the United States. The 1961 United States White Paper on Cuba, for example, was written for President Kennedy by Professor Arthur Schlesinger.
So far as I understand it, we have a number of major security concerns. We should consider these concerns seriatim and see how they can be funded before deciding what percentage of GNP we can afford to spend on defence. First, there are anxieties which derive from natural disasters such as flood, earthquake or tsunami-such as the one that occurred some five years ago-as we can remind ourselves if we look at the monument at the foot of the Clive steps, next to the Churchill memorial museum, to those who have died.
Secondly, we have to consider the possibility of an old-fashioned direct attack on this country or its dependencies, such as the Falkland Islands. In view of what happened in 1982 that cannot be quite ruled out, although I accept that the current Argentine Government are of a very different nature to the one under General Galtieri. There are, however, other such dependencies.
Thirdly, we must remember our new enemy and opponent, al-Qaeda. In the strategic paper we hear something about its activities but not much about its origins, its rise or its support. We need to remind ourselves-as the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, vigorously did-that we are fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan because the Talibs once had, and perhaps still have, a close alliance with al-Qaeda.
I read an interesting comment in the document about al-Qaeda seeking to recreate a new caliphate, a united government for the Muslim world, based on an extreme interpretation of Islam. The old caliphate ended only in 1924 with the collapse of the Ottoman dynasty, but it had not really exercised power since the Middle Ages. We should be told more. After all, there have been caliphates in the past and not all were evil. Consider, for example, the caliphate of Abd ar-Rahman, the most gifted of the Spanish sultans-the Spanish Umayyads-or the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad. If we had a benign caliphate in the Muslim world, I am not sure that it would not be better than what we have now.
A book to which the authors of this document might have referred us is that of Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower, which has lost little of its relevance now that it is four years old. It shows clearly how inspirations for al-Qaeda, especially the now legendary Qutb, were treated very roughly in their own countries. That gentleman was hanged by Nasser. I agree that that is not a justification for its present attitude, but it helps to explain.
Perhaps it is right to see al-Qaeda, in a longer historical perspective, as in the tradition of those violent movements of the 11th and 12th centuries, the Almoravids and the Almohades, both of which were inspired by Berber prophets based in Morocco and swept through Muslim and Christian Spain, causing havoc before they settled down and ruined themselves by self-indulgence.
Until that begins to happen-which, let us hope, can be arranged-we have to recognise that a great many in the Middle East, and even in our own country, look on us, Members of the House of Lords included, as "filthy infidel crusaders", in Bin Laden's words. To see danger is not enough, said the great Lord Vansittart in his marvellous autobiography The Mist Procession; one must be prepared to do something extremely unpleasant about it.
A fourth consideration that we should perhaps consider as something which might inspire us to a sense of responsibility about defence is the concern we should have about a possible nuclear exchange between one or two of the new nuclear possessor states. An exchange between, say, India and Pakistan may not be likely, but it cannot be ruled out, nor could one between Israel and Iran if the latter achieves the status to which it aspires. In any circumstances like that, the global catastrophe would be greater than could be imagined.
A fifth consideration should be to sort out the somewhat complicated relationships we seem to be developing in respect of defence in relation to France and with the European Union. This has been mentioned by several speakers so I will not go into it in detail. In all events, we want to be certain that these arrangements can be carried through effectively and creatively without damaging our relationship with the United States. There are other unforeseeable possibilities that may affect us, as several noble Lords have pointed out. The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, placed particular emphasis on the risk of a cyberattack.
When I first began to speak in your Lordships' House, I concentrated on the danger of the Soviet threat. Along with many others I now recognise that the situation has changed completely. I remember quoting the words of the American Ambassador, Charles Bohlen, speaking in 1985 when he said that we would not cope with the Soviet Union until it had become "a country and not a cause". Russia, however much we may distance ourselves from some of its operations and activities, has now become exactly that.
It is worth emphasising that, although we have a difficult modern world since the collapse of the Cold War, at least the threat of mutually assured destruction has been removed, and we do not live with the terrifying possibility that relations between the West and the Soviet Union might break down into an uncontrollable catastrophe. We ought therefore to be optimistic and happy about that.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, at the current rate of progress, if Members keep their contributions to seven minutes, the House will rise at 6 o'clock, some three hours beyond the 3 o'clock convention. I urge noble Lords that, wherever possible, they should keep their contributions succinct.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, on that important note I rise to join the debate. Many noble Lords have drawn attention to the coincidence of this debate taking place between Armistice Day and the Sunday on which many of us will be involved in Remembrance Day parades. I was reflecting that many of those that we will remember from both world wars and in the most recent conflicts actually lost their lives either through failures of defence planning or inadequacy of equipment. Ministers, Governments and leaders of the Armed Forces have sent people into conflict without proper preparation, and those people have made the supreme sacrifice. The brave widow of Sergeant Steven Roberts was interviewed in the paper this week. Sergeant Roberts served in Iraq and had to hand over his protective equipment. Within a week he was dead. That is an illustration of failures in the most recent events.
It is against that background that I welcome this review. There was no question that we needed a prompt review. It is most unfortunate and we are where no one would have wanted us to be, but one has only to look at the present situation in Ireland to see that a country faces grave risks if it does not show brave determination to face a grave financial situation. As many noble Lords have mentioned, essential to defence security is economic security. There was no way in which defence could have been left out of the present work.
"The defence budget is in deeper trouble than at any time since Labour came to power. But so are the general public finances, so the Treasury will not come to the rescue. In such situations, squeeze-and-postpone never suffices. Nettles have to be grasped - the sooner, the better".
Sadly, that is precisely what the previous Government did not do nearly three years ago-I listened with despair to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Davies-because they went ahead with ordering more and more equipment. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, misquoted his noble friend Lord Rosser, who did not say that there was not a deficit but challenged whether the figure of £38 billion was correct. I do not want to misrepresent the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, but I think that that is exactly what he said. I would like to know what the Benches opposite think the deficit was because no correct observer of the present situation would suggest that there is not a substantial deficit.
It is against that background that one realises the scale of some of these challenges. The previous Government's decision not to grasp the nettle but to postpone the carriers cost, as I understand the estimate, £1.4 billion. The total cost of next year's Foreign Office budget was spent on one delayed item of equipment procurement within the Ministry of Defence. Given the importance of soft power in the current situation, as the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, said, and the need to turn to defence diplomacy, one should not underestimate the contribution that the Foreign Office can make.
In the review the Government are prioritising success in Afghanistan and tackling the deficit problem. Phase 2 will be to rebuild capabilities and increase spend, with a genuine real-terms growth in the period 2015-20. Generally, the review is impressive. My colleague James Arbuthnot was quoted as saying that the process was rubbish. That was his personal view-the Defence Committee has not yet come up with a formal view, as I understand it-but he then went on to say that, although the process was rubbish, the outcome was much better than he expected. I agree with that.
I welcome particularly the establishment of the National Security Council. In my lifetime we have moved from a separate War Ministry, an Admiralty and an Air Ministry to a Ministry of Defence, which at least brought those three services together in one unit. Now we are moving to a National Security Council. Obviously, in the current strategic threat situation, there is a need for the cross-departmental involvement of all those who face the challenges that threaten this country.
I think everyone agrees that a conventional military threat is remote. I was involved at the time when that threat finally seemed to have disappeared with the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union. There are, of course, new threats, such as Islamic extremist terrorism and cyberattacks, whether they come from sovereign states, from non-state organisations or from individuals. The noble Lord, Lord, Lord Reid, rightly referred to the threat of individual efforts in that direction as being among the most difficult to tackle. The blackmail that we may face in various ways threatens our economy, our food security, our energy security and the collapse of essential services. Against that background, I welcome the importance of the resilience established in the review.
There are to be a number of sensible changes. There has been little criticism of the proposals to reduce the Challenger fleet, to reduce the number of artillery and
12 Nov 2010 : Column 472
On the outstanding issues, I will say one thing even though I go slightly over my time. There was a letter about the carriers in the Times two or three days ago from some very distinguished people, a number of whom I know personally and much admire. One of the most ill advised inclusions in that was telling the Argentinians that they were practically invited to invade the Falklands and then adding, as I saw it reported yesterday in the Buenos Aires Herald, that if they did, the islands would be almost impossible to recover. I have heard phrases about giving comfort to the enemy. One is perfectly entitled to make arguments as strongly as one wishes on these issues, but one has to be very careful what one says because other audiences listen. I was concerned about that.
I shall simply say this. I have already quoted Michael Quinlan, who, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, knows, has not been the greatest enthusiast for carriers. He made the point that Mount Pleasant is the key to the defence of the Falklands and that, if the Falklands were lost and we tried to recover them with Mount Pleasant in the wrong hands, a carrier should not be an awful lot of use. The vulnerability of having only one carrier is an important point.
Very quickly, on the outstanding issues, let me say that there are some difficult commercial negotiations and some difficulties about the civil servants in the MoD. I agree with noble Lords that they are not all pen-pushing bureaucrats; a lot of valuable, important people are contained in that description, and they certainly need to be properly considered.
Those problems do not fall on us in this House. As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Walker, said-and many have emphasised the covenant-we have a duty and a responsibility, not merely to those serving now, critically important though that is, but to those who have served as well. Every decision that we take to spend more money in one way or another means an option lost in another direction. My great worry on
12 Nov 2010 : Column 473
Lord Hunt of Chesterton: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord King, who was a distinguished Secretary of State for Defence in an equally difficult period of readjustment in the early 1990s. The story in the MoD was that he rather expressed surprise about choosing a socialist to run the Met Office when he was there. The Government's strategic defence review gives Parliament an opportunity to consider many fundamental questions about defence and security, which I welcome.
I want to clarify the brief remarks on page 28 on scientific and technical issues, particularly in relation to other countries and to the threats that we face. I declare an interest as an occasional consultant to the MoD and former chief executive of the Met Office, which indeed is part of the MoD. I also worked with defence colleagues in the United States. Some of the policies that were developed in the Met Office over 150 years, in what was described by the Government's chief scientist in the 1990s as a world-class research and development organisation, could, I shall argue, be applied to other aspects of the MoD's R&D, which, I am afraid, have become somewhat less than world-class. Indeed, some parts of the MoD regarded this as actual policy. That is questionable, though, since we are a country that still has a nuclear deterrent, and a nuclear deterrent is viable only if you are in a world-class technological position as well.
There are three approaches for gaining world-class technological capability. The first option is to develop it ourselves, which requires for a moderate-sized country such as the UK, as has been emphasised by other noble Lords, choosing niche areas of excellence and then exploiting and marketing them. In the United States, when they have marketed and developed a capability, they jolly well publish it. In this country, the publication and dissemination of our capabilities are rather weak. However, that is not the case in meteorology, which proudly broadcasts its great abilities.
The second option is to collaborate, either within the United Kingdom with other organisations, including in the private sector, with allies or even, most importantly, with competitor nations-in the Cold War, there was probably more collaboration with Russia than there is now. This requires focusing on fundamental issues, as happened then, such as underwater acoustics and fusion technology, and then ensuring that the UK applies the results more effectively than its competitors. Collaboration also enables UK scientists to calibrate those of our competitors.
Playing this rather high-stakes game in technology requires a sophisticated organisation in MoD: those pen-pushing bureaucrats criticised by some Members of the House. It requires an extremely sophisticated approach. I believe that MoD has had that capability in the past. It also requires a considerably greater effort of collaboration with the other scientific
12 Nov 2010 : Column 474
Recent years have seen a tremendous development of collaboration in defence technology in Europe, as the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, was encouraging. There is now collaboration in aeronautical engineering, as one has seen with Eurofighter and Airbus projects and in other areas. This collaboration in Europe has not been problematic for our collaboration with the United States, as was suggested by one noble Lord. I believe that where we have collaborated strongly with Europe and developed a strong European capability, the United States has wanted to collaborate even more strongly.
The third option is to copy, purchase or obtain by other means-which we do not need to go into-the world-class technology of other countries that might not be developed here. I was in China last weekend. To develop its famous new 350-kilometres-per-hour train, it bought one train from Germany and one from Japan, put them together and got a better train. This is the economical approach which some noble Lords have advocated. The right mix of these approaches is essential for effective policy.
The review emphasises particular aspects of defence science and technology. Probably the greatest qualitative change in defence science and technology in the past 40 years has been information and systems technology. In World War II, this was developed exclusively for activities of defence forces. The breaking of the computer codes at Bletchley Park is a supreme early example of information science having huge strategic importance. Then there was the applying of such systems, analysis and operational research to tactics. The noble Lord, Lord James, is no longer in his seat, but I point out that it was operational research conducted in Edinburgh that led Nelson to know what to do at Trafalgar by changing the tactics.
Some noble Lords have referred tangentially to research into the causes of war, the areas of war, and the probabilities of war. It has been implied that all war is wholly unpredictable. That is not the view of many students of war and it is not the view of the Pentagon. I have a particular interest in Lewis Richardson, who invented numerical weather forecasting. He studied the way in which armaments developed for the First World War; he made a prediction about the Second World War in Nature; and in 1953 he even suggested how the Cold War would end-it was an extraordinarily accurate prediction about one side's armaments overwhelming the other side's. Research on these questions is an important part of developing a defence strategy. It is particularly important, as indeed Richardson again implied, if the countries break up into many smaller countries. You have more frontiers and more problems with wars. That is exactly what has been happening. As world conflict becomes more fragmented and the causes of conflict become more varied, research within the MoD, the academic community and
12 Nov 2010 : Column 475
Information technology can lead to nations moving out of poverty through increased productivity. But it also provides the wherewithal for cyberattacks on that high productivity. Cyberattacks are essentially a high productivity method of creating damage with devastating economic and social components. The point I want to make to the Minister, which I discussed with the noble Lord, Lord Reid, is that this review skirts the coalition problem of the dichotomy between information protection and personal anonymity. Many of us on this side of the House and in the intelligence services believe that we should err more on the side of ID cards and using the information that is available to protect ourselves rather than a slightly quixotic view of discarding some of the technology that enables us to protect ourselves from dangerous attacks, not to mention pollution and other things.
The review rightly identifies climate and environment, which has been mentioned before. The new National Security Committee will enable the issues of defence and national security to be combined. Ice in the polar regions melting in the summer presents a new oceanographic domain for defence issues, and research and technology in the UK on this will be very important. Similarly, in other parts of the world where there will be floods and droughts, there may be mass movements of population with considerable problems of instability. A mobile global force, as mentioned by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, is important in such situations.
Finally, I commend the review and join others in calling for intelligent help for service men and women as they retire or are invalided out. As a former school governor, I heard from the head teacher that ex-service people with teaching qualifications are highly valued. They can demonstrate the practical value of education. I wonder whether that should not be part of the government programme. School parents and teacher organisations should be encouraged to visit military establishments. There is a good deal of feeling in some that they do not want to do that, but it is an important part of understanding the military and something that we should think about this weekend.
Baroness Tonge: My Lords, I rise as the fourth noble Baroness to speak in the debate tonight, which is sad when you look at the UNICEF figures which show that women and children suffer disproportionately in conflict and form the highest proportion of casualties. I am sad that so few of the sisterhood are here.
I add my tribute to our Armed Forces as the weekend of remembrance begins. I never cease to be grateful for the great life that I was given as a result of their sacrifice during the Second World War and since. Their worth was also brought home to me when I was spokesperson for international development in the other place and often went into conflict or post-conflict areas. The efficiency of our Armed Forces was praised in places as different as Kosovo and Sierra Leone-both of those places benefiting from our troops' ability to wage peace after conflict as well as to wage war.
I was therefore instantly attracted, as was my noble friend Lord Chidgey, to sections in the review that discussed diverting development aid to fragile states to try to prevent conflict-a noble aim. I well remember getting into big trouble-not the only time-when after the horror of the attack on the World Trade Centre I called for food and aid, instead of bombs, to be dropped on Afghanistan. I had been receiving reports of the terrible famine raging in that country and could not see how bombing would catch Osama bin Laden or win over the people of Afghanistan.
I still think I was right on that occasion. We were very slow to start to improve the lives of the people of Afghanistan, which is only now just beginning to happen. Poverty causes conflict, which causes more poverty, which leads to more conflict. It is a common pattern that we see all over the world. So I welcome the emphasis on aid to fragile states and the announcement that it will be donated according to the OECD guidelines for aid drawn up in 2005. However, I note that under the previous Government DfID scaled up its aid to fragile states and more than doubled its support over the past five years, spending £1 billion, or 46 per cent, of its bilateral expenditure in 2007-08, and in 2009-10 spending 61 per cent, or £1.6 billion, of country-specific bilateral assistance in the fragile states. So excuse me for asking the Minister why it is now trumpeted that DfID will spend 30 per cent of ODA to support fragile states in conflict areas. We need some clarification; what is new here? What worries me is that DfID's core mandate of development and poverty reduction will lose out and a large proportion of ODA will be diverted to security and defence.
Poverty, climate change and population growth all combine to cause conflict and migration as land and food resources get less and less. ODA must continue to be used for education, health and especially maternal health and family planning, which will increase the country's prosperity and reduce the number of people that have to be fed. Assistance must not be used for military purposes, and I hope that we can get assurance on that.
Prevention of conflict also means that we must start being honest about international law and UN resolutions. It is a disgrace to us all that problems such as Kashmir and Palestine are still alienating Muslims all over the world. The treatment of Palestinians by Israel is held up as an example of how the West treats Muslims and is at the root cause of terrorism worldwide. Even Tony Blair has now admitted this publicly. Why do we let it continue? Is it Holocaust guilt? We should be guilty-of course we should. Is it the power of the pro-Israel lobby here and in the USA? I do not know. Or is it the need, maybe, to have an aircraft carrier called Israel in the Middle East from which to launch attacks on countries such as Iran? The cynic might think that that is why HMS "Ark Royal" and the Harriers can be dispensed with-we already have a static "Ark Royal" in a strategic position, armed to the teeth and ready to fight, provided that we do not offend Israel. I feel sorry for the people of Israel sometimes. Their Government's policies have made that country the cause of a lot of the world's problems, yet now they are seen in the middle as the remedy and the base for the West to fight back.
If we were serious about conflict prevention as talked about in the review, we must start taking action to stop Israel's persecution of the Palestinians and to ensure that it and other countries obey international law and the Geneva conventions and respect human rights. That is the only way we shall get world order, and that would be really something-real conflict prevention.
Lord Kakkar: My Lords, I very much welcome the opportunity of this important debate on the SDSR, and will confine my comments to paragraphs 2.B.9 to 11, which deal with Defence Medical Services. Much has been made in this debate, rightly, about the military covenant. One of the most important components of that covenant is the appropriate provision of medical care, not only in matters of conflict but back here at home and, of course, for veterans after discharge from the services.
The Defence Medical Services were reviewed and a report was published by the then Healthcare Commission in 2009. Defence Medical Services is quite a remarkable organisation. It provides care for some quarter of a million individuals through some 9,000 dedicated personnel across the three services. That review identified that the management of the injured patient-the entire journey, both in theatre and back here in the United Kingdom-was quite exemplary, that it should be widely publicised, and indeed that the NHS had much to learn from the Defence Medical Services in managing traumatised patients. When we look at the horrific injuries that are being sustained in recent conflicts and the fact that so many loyal and brave servicemen are being salvaged in theatre and are able to survive those injuries, we see how far advanced the services in theatre have become.
In paragraph 2.B.9 of the strategic defence and security review, there is a commitment to a "£20 million per year" increase in funding over that spending period. Can the Minister say whether the same increases by proportion in NHS expenditure over the past 10 years-a doubling in NHS expenditure-have been seen in the provision of finance for the Defence Military Services? What proportion of overall spending on medical services in the military does that £20 million per year increase represent? It is important to understand the baseline, because across this same period we expect to see a 1.4 per cent increase in overall spending by the NHS on the civilian population.
All good clinical practice is informed by a strong evidence base. It is very important that we ensure that funds that are available for research and development on healthcare in this country are in some way also targeted toward understanding the long-term healthcare needs of service personnel who have been severely injured. This is a very special population who would not have been salvaged in previous operations, so their long-term healthcare needs are not well understood. Will the Minister be able to pursue this with Ministers in the Department of Health and try to understand whether there is an opportunity for some of the large NHS budget for research and development to be targeted on understanding the longer-term healthcare needs of these individuals and what resources will be required
12 Nov 2010 : Column 478
It is well recognised that service personnel receive very good healthcare while in the services, but at the time of discharge the responsibility for commissioning their healthcare needs is no longer the responsibility of their individual service. They pass back into the National Health Service, where commissioning is currently through primary care trusts and in the future potentially through practice-based commissioning. This review identifies that there are going to be important and radical changes in the health service in the coming years, and I wonder whether this provides an important opportunity for us to solidify the military covenant with regard to healthcare.
Would the Minister pursue, with his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health, a dialogue that might focus on using the proposed new mechanisms for the commissioning of healthcare to provide opportunities for the budget for the long-term needs of the most severely injured veterans to be held by the individual services after their discharge, such that the commissioning of their long-term care needs can be informed by individuals who understand those needs? If so, we could ensure that we move towards a situation in which we are always looking to achieve the very best healthcare outcomes not only immediately, quite rightly, but in the very long-term future that is decades hence.
This is an important opportunity for us to renew the military covenant. It is also a very sensible way to utilise the opportunities that will be provided in the forthcoming health Bill that is to be presented to Parliament to ensure that commissioning for this very important group of our citizens is, once and for all, determined in a way that will help them in the long term and give them and their families the greatest confidence that as their healthcare needs change over time, so our nation will be able to deal with them appropriately.
Winston Churchill said in 1910 that the test of society was the way in which it treated its prisoners. One hundred years later, in 2010, I think it is safe to say that the test of modern British society is how we care for our military personnel and, in particular, how we provide for their long-term healthcare needs.
Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, like my noble friend the Minister, I am proud to have served in the past with the Life Guards. At present, I am fortunate to be part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, spending 20 or so days with the Royal Air Force. The scheme, conceived by its chairman, Neil Thorne, aims to give parliamentarians a better understanding of our Armed Forces. To date, I have had the opportunity of seeing recruiting at RAF Halton and RAF Cranwell. I have also been on a survival course at RAF St Mawgan, which heavily featured bobbing around the English Channel in a dinghy. I can only hope that in future a seasickness pill will be put in the training dinghies. This course was an example of the brilliance and
12 Nov 2010 : Column 479
During my time on this scheme, I have had expressed to me concerns that were reasonable and fair. The dedicated and committed recruits who were being trained during the SDSR were not certain that there would be a place for them at the end of the review. If they give a commitment to serve their country, the politicians should surely give a commitment that there is a place on their passing out. I was somewhat ashamed that the service recruits found themselves in this position.
The manifestos of both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats set out to restore the military covenant. Service personnel putting themselves in harm's way for their country in a far-off land should not need to look over their shoulder with concerns about their families' welfare. Can the Minister give some reassurance on this point? When he and I were serving officers, the robust military covenant was at the heart of the British Armed Forces.
It is regrettable that we have been waiting since 1998 for this review, a period in which the world has changed substantially. I welcome strongly the Government's commitment to undertake a review every five years. In many respects, the cause of the deficiencies and frustrations of our defence infrastructure could have been mitigated by more frequent reviews.
The appalling state in which the previous Administration left our public finances has not allowed the Government the luxury of configuring our Armed Forces under this review. I see that the noble Lord is saying something. I remind him that we have the largest borrowings of any G20 country-indeed, we are paying interest of £120 million a day just to service the debts of the previous Administration, who doubled our borrowings-so I think that it is fair to say that the previous Administration left our finances in an appalling state.
It is clear that the review has been aligned closely with the outcome of the comprehensive spending review. I am glad that the Government will not lose this important opportunity to consider the long-term configurations of our Armed Forces. If our Armed Forces are to be smaller, they need to be increasingly flexible to handle the increasingly nimble postures of our opponents.
The decision to retain the Tornado at the expense of the Harrier, both of which I have been fortunate enough to have flown in, seems to have been a consequence of the previous Government reducing the number of Harriers in recent years and the challenge of operational environments that the ongoing Afghanistan war presents. I listened to the Minister in this House the other day with sadness when he gave his reasons for the decision to retire the Harrier fleet. I believe that he has come to the correct decision. The Harrier, and those who flew in it, served this country with great distinction.
Finally, the decision not to bring the Nimrod MRA4 marine patrol aircraft into service to replace existing Nimrods, which I have seen at first hand, has caused much concern, not only because of the £3 billion cost incurred over the 14 years since the contract was
12 Nov 2010 : Column 480
Lord Judd: My Lords, we live in a totally interdependent world. We simply have to understand that, across the world, there are many millions, among them highly sophisticated and educated people, who feel increasingly helpless and frustrated at their exclusion from the power structures of the world. They are tired of being constantly told what is expected of them and what they must do. Many are particularly bitter because they see their own plight as directly linked to the relative material well-being and strength of those rich nations that, as they see it, still endeavour to manage the world in their own selfish interests. We must face it: too often, we are seen like that.
For a secure and stable world, there has to be a global redistribution of power as well as a redistribution of resources. There has to be common ownership of the agendas for international finance, trade and climate change. Enlightened paternalism by the elite will no longer suffice. There must be a reassertion of the primacy and importance of the international rule of law. The noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, was absolutely right to make that point.
All this is central to our future security. High-tech societies such as ours are also vulnerable societies. A handful of terrorists can cause huge damage and potentially large-scale slaughter. Nuclear, biological and chemical potentialities compound the risk. Manipulative and ruthless extremists recruit potential terrorists from the alienated. We may never be able to eliminate the dangers altogether, but we can marginalise the extremists. Human rights, economic and social well-being and social and economic investment in the communities where the dangers breed are all crucially relevant to effective security policy. Security cannot be imposed. It has to be grown with its roots in the community. Attempts to impose it repeatedly exacerbate the problem. This applies everywhere: in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
It also applies in Europe and the United Kingdom. Where there are few serious human rights issues, genuinely accountable government and demonstrable economic and social justice, extremism can be marginalised. By contrast, where there are serious human rights issues, a denial of economic and social justice and too little accountability of government, there are likely to be security challenges. People need security and hope for their future. In the cause of enduring stability, the
12 Nov 2010 : Column 481
Faced with the limitations on our ability to achieve what we want alone, we have no alternative but to recognise the indispensability of bilateral, regional and political groupings-of the European Union and NATO, but also of more representative global organisations. It would be foolish in the world that I have described to underrate or downplay the United Nations. Cynicism towards it could prove disastrous. There is an urgent need for a more representative, better-serviced Security Council, with a remit to recognise the economic, social, climatic and demographic dimensions of security every bit as much as the military dimensions. Migration is a global challenge if ever there was one and climate change will rapidly accelerate it.
The different operational aspects of our own UK defence programme are closely interrelated, but are they yet fully interwoven? The effectiveness of the centre is a central consideration. There should be no room whatever for any culture of inter-service rivalry or tribalism. Good and reliable intelligence is absolutely central to everything that we want to achieve. Are we yet absolutely certain that we are giving the intelligence services the priority that they deserve?
Global interdependence and global instability together must mean that flexibility and the ability to deploy from free-standing operational platforms around the world are necessary. Either we need the carriers for this or we do not. I am convinced that we do. I became convinced when I was the Minister responsible for the Navy in the 1970s, when we restarted the carrier programme because we realised that the decision to scrap it had been wrong.
What is not clear in the Government's position when this has been emphasised is what is going to happen in the 10-year interregnum. The period will be longer; it certainly will not be 10 years in the end. If the Government are right that they can take this gap in their stride, there is no case for the carriers; if we can meet our needs without the carriers, there is no case for them. If, as some of us believe, the carriers are essential, what will happen in the interregnum? We have had no convincing answers.
Amid all the unpredictability as we strive for nuclear disarmament, which I hope we achieve, we are nevertheless right to retain a nuclear potential. To delay strategic decisions on its future form is not convincing. Do we need a renewal of Trident or do we not? We have dodged that issue. How does Trident relate to our analysis of the future? Are there more relevant economic alternatives? These questions remain urgently to be resolved. They should be central to a strategic defence review. Meanwhile, are we doing enough to protect our military and civilian nuclear activities, not least the safeguarding of nuclear waste and weapons-grade uranium?
Arms control and global disarmament are among the most far-reaching and effective contributions to security and defence. This is acutely important in the nuclear, biological and chemical spheres, but it is also an imperative for so-called conventional arms. It is therefore encouraging that the Government endorsed the importance of an arms trade treaty and recognised that the arms trade can be lethal. Economic opportunism and, yes, even employment opportunism must never seduce us into irresponsibility. The European code of conduct on the arms trade was an imaginative beginning, but it is only a start. Security sector reform, conflict resolution-not just prevention-and peacebuilding, not just peacekeeping, are first-order priorities. To succeed they must be inclusive, as they were in Northern Ireland. Preconditions should be minimal. Commitment comes within the process. Hamas or the Taliban must be part of it, just as the political wing of the IRA was. Genuine ownership by the parties is absolutely crucial if there is to be success in conflict resolution.
I will make one concluding observation, if I may. We are not just defending territory; we are defending values and quality of civilisation. Here, unashamedly, I speak as a vice-president of the Campaign for National Parks. The MoD estate is part of that quality of our inheritance. Within it there is much wonderful landscape and biodiversity. It is essential to keep constantly under review how we can improve public access and, indeed, how much of that estate is genuinely required for MoD purposes.
"We will: continue to prioritise the counter-terrorism elements of policing. We will maintain core capabilities in counter-terrorism policing which are crucial to countering the threat from terrorism, while introducing efficiency savings".
The police service cannot, and should not, be exempt from the rigours of efficiency savings and budget reductions, nor should the organisational status quo of policing prevail; reform in many areas of policing is long overdue. However, I should like to raise questions and concerns about the Government's proposals for policing and how they will contribute to the strategic defence and security of our country, particularly in combating terrorism.
"First we will transfer power back to the people-by introducing directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners ... Secondly, we will transfer power away from government ... Thirdly, we will ... create a new National Crime Agency to lead the fight against organised crime, protect our borders and provide",
other national services. Today clearly is not the occasion on which to discuss the overall strengths and weaknesses of the Government's proposed new model for policing. However, it is appropriate for me to raise questions about how the new model for policing may help or hinder the fight against terrorism and related security issues.
In essence, the Government are proposing a devolved, decentralised patchwork of policing with more than 40 local police forces, each with a chief constable and its own police authority. Very importantly, from 2012 each will have a locally elected police and crime commissioner. Overlaying this will be a new national crime agency to lead the fight against organised crime and protect our borders. However, it will not have a pivotal role in combating terrorism.
I have three interlinked areas of concern as we negotiate the transition from the current policing model to the one proposed by the Government, and how this may have an impact on the fight against terrorism. My first concern relates to the tough resource decisions that will have to be made as a result of the spending cuts. I am not arguing for the police service to be exempt from the cuts-far from it. However, the police service must make cuts of more than 20 per cent over the next four years, and they are front-end loaded, with a reduction of 6 per cent in 2011 and 8 per cent in the Olympic year of 2012. My concern is that the understandable national and local political pressure to preserve a visible police presence on the streets may well lead to a reduction in the resources available to specialist police units, which make such a vital contribution to the fight against terrorism. I refer to local special branches, intelligence units, surveillance units and so on, which are distributed up and down the country. Salami-slice reductions across the board will not deliver the savings, and very tough choices will have to be made.
This leads me to my second concern. The current police authorities for each of the police forces will oversee two-thirds of the proposed spending cuts in policing until 2012, when the new commissioners will be elected locally. The current police authorities will be responsible for making crucial spending decisions that will shape the future of policing, including the fight against terrorism locally, and, by implication, nationally and internationally. On 26 October, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary published a report, Police Governance in Austerity. The report contains two main findings. First, police authorities will have a crucial role to play over the next 18 months, but few are well prepared for it. Secondly, few police authorities are well positioned or prepared to provide proper direction and ensure value for money. I hope that police authorities will be monitored and supported in the last 18 months of their existence as they make strategic and spending decisions that could have an adverse impact on the fight against terrorism.
My third and final concern is that from 2012, the strategic direction of local policing will be in the hands of more than 40 newly elected, inexperienced local police commissioners. The arrangements for the policing of London will remain largely unchanged. I predict that, in seeking election and re-election, aspiring police and crime commissioners will produce populist manifestos that will promise physical street policing and address other very local issues. These are laudable activities and will demonstrate democracy at work. However, it is unlikely that the commissioners will focus, when campaigning or in office, on the contribution that their police areas could and should make to the fight against domestic and international terrorism.
I share that ambition, particularly in relation to combating terrorism. That is why I have briefly raised concerns today. I hope that the Minister, even though he does not speak for the Home Office or the Ministry of Justice, will be able, either today or subsequently, to reassure noble Lords that the combination of spending caps, police authorities-these may not be best placed to make crucial decisions in their last 18 months-and a patchwork of more than 40 newly elected, inexperienced local police commissioners will not be allowed to dilute or undermine the contribution that the police service can and must make to the fight against terrorism at home and overseas.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, this is a great day. This is one of the most extensive debates on defence that we have ever had. It would have been longer but for the intervention of the Liberal Democrat minders on the Front Bench. This is not a time-limited debate and, as we know well, if we were to follow the rules, nobody would be allowed to read their speeches, otherwise we would all say "Reading, reading". I made a mistake today: I wore a head-dress. I had an eye operation last night, after which I had to wear a black patch. Of course, one is not allowed to wear a head-dress in your Lordships' House, so I have removed it. If I have a rather bloody eye, I apologise.
That relates to an event that I was privileged to host last week in the royal apartments. Three hundred people were there to celebrate the defence of the realm and the prosecution of overseas trade and, in particular, the installation of the Armada tapestries, which noble Lords can now see hanging. We are so short of funds these days that we could not get them lit so we had to get a job number and then ask the young electricians who came and put them up over the weekend.
We managed to find an artefact to symbolise these things: the Armada bell. If you scratch the skin of your Lordships' House you do not find blood; to my amazement I found that one of my colleagues, the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, had inherited the bell of the "Ark Royal" through the female line, but it had dropped a clanger and lost its clapper. Therefore, we thought we would go back to ancient times and determine the importance of the ship's bell. Your Lordships will note that the Armada bell is at the end of the Royal Gallery. It has a new clapper from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which in fact built Big Ben, and a frame which was created by the master craftsmen of your Lordships' House, who are known as shipwrights. We rang the bell for the first time since the reduction of Cadiz. The artist who painted the tapestry was present
12 Nov 2010 : Column 485
I thought that we could now use the Armada bell to promote the cause of the maritime world and that I would invite the MoD, which was very supportive, to receive it and exhibit it. However, the MoD works of art department, which has assets in excess of £20 million, advised me last night that it did not have enough money in its budget to transport it from your Lordships' House to the MoD where it could remain and be displayed. That shows the shortness of money.
In the discussion the other day, I looked into a bit of history. I thought, "Let's look at what goes wrong". Whenever we have a war, we go bust. At the time of the Armada, the Government of Queen Elizabeth were in budget, but since then and over time we have got into difficulty. Never mind, 92 Members of your Lordships' House have served as Lord High Admirals or First Lords of the Admiralty. I have their roll of honour and they will receive special privileges hereinafter to be defined.
We looked at trade and defence because they are related. Historically, our defence was to protect and to develop our trade routes. Of course, I suppose we began much of our life in the piratical form. Let us look at what happens when you have another war. Since the Second World War, forgetting the intermediate wars, our visible trade or trading goods have gone from a balance to a deficit of £100 billion, but at the other end-what I call hot air-services have gone to a surplus of £45 billion. However, we have a deficit and as we cannot earn a living without trade, trade should be considered as an important part of our future defence strategy.
Let us look at the world: 71 per cent of it is covered with water. The coastlines of the Commonwealth are 44,000 kilometres long, the longest coastline in the world and longer than those of the former empire of the Soviet Union. It does not mean very much, but the coastlines of the pays francophones, the French territories, are 33,000. I promised the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, that I would get in the Kerguelen Islands and this is a roundabout way of doing so.
Looking at the world, you look at where the natural resources are, where the oil is, where the blockages are, and you look at everyone's 200-mile limit and propose to extend it to perhaps a 500-mile limit. In looking at your future defence policy you have to look at the world because 1.8 billion of the world's population are members of the Commonwealth. That is useless information, but useless does not mean useless-it is of less use than anything you can think of at the time. We have more flags than any other nation and about 40 per cent of the flags of the world. British influence, British historic dominance and our own dependence on international things are proportionally greater than that of any country with the same size of population and the same size of economy.
I turn to a solution. My family have always been involved with the sea. We come from Islay originally, as the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, might appreciate, but we are the only ones entitled to have a letter of marque and to fly the Scottish flag. On the other side of my family, we were fairly simple people. My grandfather made some money and thought he would like to be a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron so he bought a big boat. However, he did not realise that, in the First World War, the Government would want to press it into service, as they did. "Venetia", as she was called, was fitted with depth charges, which blew her stern off as soon as they were tried, and went to sea with a chauffeur and a coachman-nanny was also asked. At the end of the war, the Admiralty wrote to him, promoted him to commander and gave him some gold braid, and sent him a cheque for 100 guineas, which he framed and put in the downstairs gents. It was signed by him. He wrote: "Those who sit on the seat shall for ever remember the historic meanness of the Admiralty".
I use that as a simple turnaround. If we used to sequestrate boats, why cannot the private sector do something? I would like to buy "Ark Royal" and the Harriers and press them into service. That is a perfectly reasonable thing to do if the Government cannot finance it-we use PFI and many other arrangements. What would the Government sell "Ark Royal", the Harriers and the pilots for? We could have discussions with other navies, whether from Chile, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, where they have a shortage of protection line and people are worried about the Spratly Islands. The world is worried, but if we have an asset like that, other people might like to share it.
I sit down now quietly, knowing that if I go on longer, I will be attacked by the Liberal Democrat Front-Benchers, but also asking why it is permitted for people to wear uniform in the Chamber, even though they sit in a position of authority. I wish the Government well, but I wish that they would pursue the idea of keeping "Ark Royal" and the Harriers and allowing me to contribute in some way to finance them.
Lord Boateng: My Lords, at the outset I declare an interest as a non-executive director of AEGIS Defence Services and as a trustee of a number of charities operating in conflict and post-conflict regions in Africa and the wider world.
There is an interest that I do not need to declare because I bear the marks of it on my body still, in that I served in the Treasury between 2001 and 2005. As Chief Secretary to the Treasury, I conducted two comprehensive spending reviews. I bear the marks inflicted by a number of noble friends and noble and gallant Members of this House. It is not in my defence that I speak, but I did note that the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, referred to the Treasury as predatory. It is incumbent on me to spring to the defence of my erstwhile Civil Service colleagues in the Treasury to say that the defence and intelligence spending teams of Her Majesty's Treasury are dedicated public servants-indeed, the armed services and the intelligence services have no better friends in Whitehall-but they have their job to do.
Lord Boateng: I am comforted by that, and I am sure that the civil servants, who follow with great attention the debates in this House, will be similarly comforted. In response to the noble Lord, I make one observation about my time as Chief Secretary that he may find comforting. My experience is that if you are to have comprehensive spending reviews, which are necessary, and if you are to have strategic defence reviews, which are certainly necessary, it is better that the strategic defence review follows the comprehensive spending review, in this sense. The strategic defence review ought to impact on the comprehensive spending review that follows it, rather than the other way round. To have the two at the same time runs a danger-and it must be said that this strategic defence review demonstrates that danger all too clearly. As Chief Secretary, it is a help to have your feet held to the fire by the chiefs and Ministers who are able to refer you to a strategic defence review, to say that this is the commitment that the Government have made and then to expect you, as Chief Secretary, to live up to that commitment. That was certainly the approach taken during the two CSRs that I conducted and, yes, I was duffed up-Chief Secretaries always are-but at the end of the day there was a result that I think did justice to the cause, the national interest and to the service.
I fear that this strategic defence review has been unduly impacted upon by the fact that a CSR was taking place at the same time. There is too much influence of the concerns that have to dominate a CSR evident in the strategic defence and security review, but we must give it time to sink in, and we will see what emerges.
"Recent experience has shown that instability and conflict overseas can pose risks to the UK, including by creating environments in which terrorists and organised crime groups can recruit for, plan and direct their global operations ... A lack of effective government, weak security and poverty can all cause instability and will be exacerbated in the future by competition for resources, growing populations and climate change".
One of the greatest bulwarks against that insecurity is an all too often under-remarked upon and under-recognised aspect of the Ministry of Defence's effort: defence diplomacy. It is the soft power instrument applied by the MoD and by the dedicated band of men and women who do the business of defence diplomacy, which the MoD described in its policy paper 1 of 2000. Defence diplomacy is,
That is a very important task, and it is conducted by very skilled and experienced service men and women who deserve credit for what they have done and are doing. However, the sad thing is that-and my own
12 Nov 2010 : Column 488
I hope that this new strategic defence and security review will begin to reverse that process. I hope that the conflict pool, which is now to be increased to some £300 million by 2014-15, will not be used just to fund programmes but will be underpinned by a strategy. That is the one question I have for the Minister. Is there to be an Africa strategy? Is there to be a strategy that calls upon DfID, the FCO, the MoD and, importantly, on the very considerable resources available to DfID that are not available to the FCO and the MoD to underpin that strategy? If so, that will be welcome news in Africa because there cannot be development without security and there are no better men and women at doing it than those in our military services. They deserve credit and support, and I hope they get the resources from this conflict pool and a strategy that underpins the application of those resources. All of us across government, in both Houses and on all sides, need to be concerned about not just the quantity of our spend, but its effectiveness, and give the strength and support to the men and women of our services that they deserve in their valuable work in Africa.
Lord Burnett: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Boateng. We had the honour to serve together on a number of Finance Bill committees, in which he was always generous, in the halcyon days when there was a fair bit of money around. It is a little known fact that the noble Lord is the world's greatest living expert on stamp duty reserve tax, which he introduced.
It has been said that the strategic defence and security review should answer the question posed by the previous Secretary of State, "What sort of country do we want to be?". Although that is a sensible question and should form part of the review process, there is another more pressing question: "What operations must we as a country be capable of conducting in our own national self-interest and to fulfil our treaty obligations?". We have 14 Crown dependencies scattered around the world, 13 of which are islands. We are pledged to defend them. Furthermore, we as a country depend crucially on imports, not least gas and oil. Those are essential for our day-to-day lives and economic well-being. Much of our imports of gas and oil come from the Middle East. I believe that 9 per cent of our gas comes from Qatar and this will continue to grow.
It is a helpful coincidence that only last Wednesday we were debating the European Union Committee's excellent report, Combating Somali Piracy: the EU's Naval Operation Atalanta. I read that report and was
12 Nov 2010 : Column 489
"Should we not now be thinking that it is a legitimate security interest for us to consider the trade routes as far as the Gulf of Aden as part of our national concern? That in turn reflects the defence agenda and the importance of the Royal Navy".
I know that my noble friend and other Ministers in the Ministry of Defence are only too aware of the importance of naval power for the future of our defences. I understand the constraints that the Government face because of the size of the national debt and I do not underestimate this burden. Nevertheless, it is the first duty and first priority of the Government to defend this country and to stand up for its interests. I strongly support the comments made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, in his compelling and authoritative speech.
I therefore come back to the deeply regrettable decision to scrap the Harriers and HMS Ark Royal. I raised these matters in the House on 22 October and 2 November, and I make no apology for raising them again. The last complete refit of HMS Ark Royal was in 2001 at a cost of £148 million. In 2009, she completed an intermediate refit at the cost of £34 million. She is well capable of lasting a further 10 years until the new carriers and Joint Strike Fighters are available. It is reckless optimism that seeks to rely on overflying rights and friendly airbases. These rights and bases can be swept away at a moment's notice. It is imperative for us to preserve the ability to go where we want to go and where sometimes we are not wanted. This is what our amphibious capability gives us and why I so wholeheartedly support the Government's decision to keep our amphibious fleet and our amphibious troops capable of deployment at brigade strength. We can deploy and withdraw without anyone's consent, and these deployments can of course be for all-out combat, for scaled-down operations and for humanitarian operations as well. The operation in Sierra Leone serves as a vivid illustration of the benign effect of this capability and the presence of air power.
The amphibious fleet gives us the greatest flexibility and, importantly, the most diplomatic options. My noble friend knows only too well the constructive effect of a show of force. Many years ago he and I witnessed this together at first hand. The one major problem, as my noble friend knows, is that in order to have an effective amphibious force, it is essential to have carrier-based fixed-wing air support. We cannot do without it. If an incident occurs, the country will not tolerate any inability to challenge the threat. Not only would it be devastating for our national morale, it would also devastate the morale of our dedicated service personnel who are charged with defending our country's interests. They continuously exceed our highest expectations, and they and their families are owed a voice in these matters, and we owe them no less. Fighting troops should not be expected to steam into a theatre of operations, wait offshore and then be prevented
12 Nov 2010 : Column 490
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|