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Lord Carver: My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way and hope that he does not mind my correcting him. It has never been a fundamental policy of NATO that this country should have its own nuclear weapon.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, it has been the fundamental policy of NATO, as the noble and gallant Lord would accept, that the nuclear deterrent was the basis on which NATO strategy was determined. I have to say to the
The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, asked about procurement. We have a project for future Engineer tanks to replace the existing Chieftain-based armoured vehicle launcher bridge and the armoured vehicle Royal Engineer from 2005. We are currently considering bids for feasibility studies. We have also considered carefully an offer from Vickers Defence Systems to supply future Engineer tanks under a Smart procurement proposal. We hope to reach a decision soon.
The noble Earl asked whether the MoD budget was on target for the next two years. The resources needed to achieve the priorities which we set out in the review will in part be achieved by making savings from rationalisation in support areas, a continuing programme of efficiency improvements and Smart procurement. I have no reason to believe that we shall not meet our targets, though that will be difficult. We have accepted them.
I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, welcomed the review and in particular its comments on sea and air lift. He asked about the role of carriers and whether they would incorporate joint floating command posts. It is impossible to answer that question at this time. The suggestion is certainly not excluded. We are at the earliest stage of considering such questions. In fact, we have not yet reached that stage; we are formulating our studies on the shape and size of carriers. However, the possibility is not ruled out at this stage.
The noble Lord, Lord Burnham, asked what kind of aircraft would be on the carriers. Again, it is far too early to answer that. It might be of help to him and your Lordships to know that we have a menu as regards the fast jets of possibly a navalised Eurofighter, which I understand is a physical possibility; of a conventional take-off and landing joint strike fighter; of an advanced form of Harrier, a STOAVL--short take-of-and-vertical landing aircraft; or of a STOAVL version of the joint strike fighter. As I am sure the noble Lord knows, the joint strike fighter may come in as many as three or four versions. There will also be helicopters and air-borne early warning vehicles.
As regards the question of airborne early warning aircraft, I wish to take up a question which my noble friend Lord Hardy raised with me about UAVs. That gives me a great opportunity to embark on one of my hobbyhorses. It is certainly one of the possibilities for the future carrier that the airborne early warning aircraft may itself be an unmanned aerial vehicle. I am told that the United States is already undertaking experiments with the United States Navy for unmanned helicopters in a supply role. I hope that I am gaining a reputation as a fanatic for developing unmanned systems over the
Many years ago, we saw the first drones come in as target aircraft. Since then, many countries have introduced unmanned vehicles for tactical reconnaissance and target acquisition roles. It will not be very long before we are seeing unmanned air platforms dispensing munitions. It is quite conceivable that we shall also see them fulfilling, in part at any rate, an air-to-air role. As we move into a scenario in which forces are to be armed with beyond visual range air-to-air missiles, with a range of over 100 miles, the question of whether or not you need a man inside the platform which launches that air-to-air capability is a very moot one.
I have asked a question to which I have yet to receive a thoroughly satisfactory reply. I want to know why, if we can make an unmanned vehicle go prancing around Mars on its own, I cannot have one going around Salisbury Plain on its own. I have yet to receive a satisfactory answer to that. As soon as I do, I shall report to your Lordships accordingly.
I am very sorry to see that the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, is not here. He did give me the courtesy of telling me that he could not be here at this stage. I was sorry to hear that he had never been a chief of defence staff. The only way that I believe that he ever will be is when we have a Liberal Democrat government. I am quite sure that he will be high on the list of candidates when the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, is the Liberal Democrat Defence Secretary. I hope that that message will be passed on to the noble Earl.
The noble Earl asked me whether we are applying all the media resources available to us in order to represent the forces in a good light. We certainly are. I hope that those of your Lordships who attended the Army presentation in Westminster Hall a few weeks ago were satisfied and gratified by the quality of that presentation and will see that the Army yields to nobody these days in the sophistication with which it advertises its wares.
I was gratified to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and other noble Lords in relation to what we said about zero tolerance for racial discrimination in Her Majesty's Services. Recently, we had the benefit of a splendid visit from General Powell, who gave us many good ideas in that respect, many of which we shall be implementing in due course.
My noble friend Lord Hardy asked me some questions about the state of the European defence industry. That is a matter with which I find myself quite frequently involved, not only in terms of procurement but also in terms of considering the strategies involved. Co-operative procurement is an extremely difficult and tricky task. I find it no easier today than it was when I was responsible for producing the Tornado some 20 years ago. Regrettably, we had to pull out of the Trimilsatcom project recently because we decided that it was not going to come in on time to meet our requirements. We are proceeding with a national solution.
We also have several other projects with our European friends which are offering varying degrees of difficulty; for example, the MR Trigat and the HORIZON Frigate, just to name a couple. As I say, these are extremely difficult matters to handle and they require the greatest concentration both by Ministers and officials in this country and by our allies elsewhere.
Determination of the way in which the defence industry of western Europe is to be restructured is a matter for the boards of the companies involved. They come and talk to us. We merely tell them that we believe that they will have to restructure. They must operate in larger units to survive in the future. That is not only so in areas like aerospace, where it is obvious to everybody that however large a European firm may be, it will still be fairly puny when compared with the resources of Lockheed and Boeing, but also in other activities, particularly in relation to armoured vehicles, where I think I am right in saying that there are something like 16 different manufacturers in Western Europe and only two in the United States. It is clear that we shall not be able to survive if we continue to produce penny packets in individual firms making such equipment.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, asked me--and he was kind enough to give me notice of this--about national defence but more particularly theatre defence against missiles. As I understood him, he was more interested in incoming ballistic missiles rather than incoming Cruise missiles. Our attitude to such an attack on our forces in theatre, were it to come about, would depend on the type of warhead being used against us. If it were an incoming conventional warhead, it would be treated just as one treats incoming artillery fire. The fact that it is launched from a greater range does not have much to do with the matter.
If it were--which is rather unlikely because those things are not very effective in a war-fighting scenario--a warhead which contained a weapon of mass destruction--a chemical or biological agent--then we have means of responding. I am quite sure that anybody who was thinking about launching chemical or biological warheads against British troops would think twice about it when he knew the range of fire power and delivery systems available to Her Majesty's Government.
The noble Lord asked me whether I had any information about a specific site just outside Baghdad. The answer is that I do not. If I did, I am not sure that I could tell the noble Lord in this House because that information would probably be highly classified. However, the fact is that I do not have any such information.
It is very unusual to see the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, over there but she is very welcome on those Benches, I am sure. I quite agree with her that there are not enough people in the services. I only wish that we could spend more money on defence. That has always been my message. However, health Ministers want to spend more on health and education Ministers want to spend more on education. I should like nothing more
I was glad to receive a welcome, again from my noble friend Lord Hardy and also elsewhere in this House, for the Government's decision that it is possible for our servicemen and service women to walk on the streets in uniform. That will add greatly to our recruiting strengths over the years ahead. It is also an important ingredient in attracting and retaining more recruits to our educational programmes, which are referred to in the Strategic Defence Review. Welcome was given also to the firmness with which this Government are determined to stamp out racism, bullying or harassment of any sort in the services. That is a message not only to those who might be recruits, but also to their parents. I hope your Lordships will play a part in making it clear that this Government, as did our predecessor, have no intention of tolerating practices of that sort in Her Majesty's Services.
I believe that the most important people to influence are the senior NCOs and the commanding officers of regiments. As General Powell said, we must make it clear that their career prospects will be affected if there are any instances of racial intolerance in their units.
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