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Lord Mason of Barnsley: My Lords, my noble friend must be aware that it is a great relief that he and the Secretary of State did not have to contend with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Labour's Action for Peace, the Tribune Group, and the national executive, because this has been a peaceful review. For most of us in the Labour Party there is not a lot for us to quarrel about.
The review has revealed a major change in strategy, including the prospect of airborne military fire brigades, in liaison with our allies, to dampen down trouble spots beyond our shores. It includes of course within the rapid reaction forces, the development of integrated, inter-service Harrier forces, and I am pleased about that.
I am pleased that we have maintained a nuclear capability, and that it is to continue. Is there any timescale? Does my noble friend foresee any fresh nuclear missile developments within the force? I am disappointed at the cut-back in the Terriers. I think that we have gone too far, but there is some consolation in the fact that the Army Cadet Force will increase. I noticed in the press--there is a hint in the White Paper--a reference to private sponsorship. Will my noble friend explain? However, I congratulate my noble friend on his well-conducted foreign policy, led by and shared with the Foreign Office. I think that it has been a good government operation.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am of course immensely obliged to my noble friend who of course occupied a position senior to mine at the MoD for many years with great distinction. I take great comfort from what he said. He and I have a certain amount of experience of wrestling with those within my own party who disagreed with us on things nuclear. Therefore it gives me great pleasure to be able to make the announcements that we have made today.
Lord Renton: My Lords, will the Minister tell us how the TA is to be reduced by 30 per cent. (19,000 men)? Is it to be done by dismissing a large number or by merely stopping recruiting, in which case it will take a long time? What will be the financial saving from that reduction?
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, it is unlikely that substantial numbers of people will be dismissed. Such is the rate of turnover in the territorial forces that I hope the process can be handled with the greatest of tact and the minimum of disruption to individual people's lives. Of course, at the end of the day, it is possible that certain units will have to be closed. We shall be taking account of regional loyalties, the need to spread the remaining units across the community as a whole, and to sustaining the bonds that those territorial units have with their local communities. I can assure the noble Lord that all those matters are at the forefront of the mind of my honourable friend the Minister for the Armed Forces. I have taken part in many discussions on those points.
The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, I welcome the emphasis that Her Majesty's Government have placed on defence diplomacy. I am delighted to see the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, in her place. There is a cut in the number of destroyers and frigates from 35 to 32 and an increasing need to have frigates available for humanitarian tasks. Does the Minister feel that that weakness in the strategic review needs to be corrected?
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, if you asked me, I should like to double the amount of money spent on defence in almost every direction. I think that I am on record as being the only Member of the other place who voted for an increase in defence expenditure and voted against the Defence Estimates on the ground that they were too low. But we have to be realistic. We have to balance expenditure on defence against other demands on the public purse. So far as concerns the destroyers and frigates, we no longer face a situation, as we did in the 1950s, the 1960s, and the 1970s, where we might have been contemplating blue-water operations against powerful Warsaw Pact naval forces. The situation has changed greatly.
One of the reasons that we took the decisions that we did, which are endorsed by the First Sea Lord--I do not say that he welcomed them, but he thought that it was an acceptable solution--was that we looked at the possibility of submarine warfare, the size of submarine fleets of other navies around the world, where they were, and their capabilities, and we decided that we were not going to need nearly the investment that we have had in the past in the anti-submarine capability. It is as simple as that.
Lord Chalfont: My Lords, I speak for myself, which is all that I can do from these Benches. Like my noble and gallant friend, I welcome this constructive, imaginative and forward-looking Statement. In parenthesis, perhaps I may express the hope that the Government will not consider this leak business to be too tragic. Of course it has been a leak, but it is not a revelation to be placed alongside the Apocalypse. We have known for some time largely what the review was going to contain, because the Government have conducted widespread consultations on it.
What is important is the content. Here, in deference to the need for brevity, I shall make just one point. The continued commitment to an effective nuclear deterrent is an extremely welcome development, and one which I hope will continue. Have serious strategic calculations been made about the nuclear threat from rogue states and possibly from our former enemies and the ability of possible enemies to protect themselves against nuclear strikes? Were all those taken into account in arriving at the new level of armament for the Trident force?
We shall need an answer to that. We shall need answers to many other questions in the future. However, I conclude by saying that at least for those of us who take defence seriously, it is encouraging to note that the Government also are doing just that.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, once again I am deeply indebted to the noble Lord whom I have known for many years and regard highly for his remarks on these subjects. He will know what enormous pleasure it brings me to be able to stand at this Dispatch Box and confirm that we shall always have a Trident submarine out there 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. It was a commitment I was unable to give the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne--unfortunately he is not in his place this afternoon--when he asked me about the matter some months ago in your Lordships' House.
I am obliged to the noble Lord for his recognition that the Government take defence very seriously indeed. It should also be taken into account that while we have reduced the number of warheads, and have announced the number of warheads we shall deploy, those should not be compared closely with the previous government's disclosed figure because that was a ceiling figure. The previous government--I do not quarrel with their judgment--saw fit never to disclose the number of warheads being deployed at sea at any one time. I hope that that meets the noble Lord's point.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for repeating the Statement made in another place. However, I fail to detect in it any realisation whatever that the world is in grave peril unless something is done to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Our civilisation is in peril, even conceivably the life of humanity itself. Under those circumstances, it is with great regret that I regard the speech which my noble friend was obliged to repeat in this House as inadequate in that respect, if in no other.
I shall confine myself to this single point. We are told that the review--I have it in my hand--was Foreign Office led. The words "nuclear elimination" are popular in the Foreign Office. I am sure that my noble friend Lady Symons--I am glad to see her in her seat--will confirm that. I understand that those words are not popular in the Ministry of Defence. That was confirmed by the fact that I did not hear my noble friend mention the words "nuclear elimination". Although I have not been able to read it fully, I was unable to discover any mention of those words in the Statement. That is all I have to say. I shall make further comments in the debate to which we all look forward. In the meantime, I ask my noble friend to confirm that the policy of nuclear elimination is not only the policy of the Foreign Office but also of the Ministry of Defence and the Government.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, it will always be difficult for me to find forms of words which will make my noble friend Lord Jenkins happy on matters nuclear. However, I can confirm that it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to work towards a nuclear-free world. I also hope that we work towards a world that does not have bombs, bayonets, machine guns and other rather unpleasant instruments in it. I merely point out to my noble friend that far more people have been killed by conventional means in the past 50 years than were killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki put together.
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