first day's debate

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 8:26 pm on 12th June 1985.

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Photo of Dr Alan Glyn Dr Alan Glyn , Windsor and Maidenhead 8:26 pm, 12th June 1985

I support the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) in one respect, and that is in accepting the importance of the role of the Merchant Navy in war. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir E. du Cann) also made that point. I was interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). However, we cannot possibly estimate whether Russian policy, under the titular headship of Mr. Gorbachev, will change. Consequently, our efforts for peace must continue along the same lines until we see some sign of change on his part.

I shall concentrate on the defence of our homeland and installations, as the Government have described in paragraph 448. As I hope to show, there will simply not be enough men, after mobilisation, to man those vital installations.

1 think that it is agreed on all sides that the conventional forces of the Warsaw pact are in all cases superior to our own. During exercise Lionheart, it was shown that the time taken for reinforcements was good, but that it would take the United States a considerable time to provide reinforcements. Consequently, we would be entirely reliant on nuclear weapons for our defence.

The third paragraph on page 6 of the Estimates makes it clear that the possession of Trident and of our nuclear capability is likely to inflict unacceptable damage on the Soviet Union. Surely that in itself makes the case for possession of such weapons, helping the peace initiative and strengthening our hand in any negotiations. The Defence Estimates also point out that Trident may result in sacrifices. However, I believe that Trident is so essential that we must keep it. Indeed, it is even more essential given the enormous stocks of chemical weapons held by the Soviet Union. I hope that we shall hear more about what we are doing to protect our soldiers and civilians from any such attack.

Star wars may have helped peace negotiations with the Soviets, but I believe that there are many technological defects which could put that project, as a practical proposition, far into the future. Nevertheless, it may help in our negotiations, as the Soviets are obviously worried about it. We cannot possibly be sure that some of the technicalities such as thermal measurements are perfected, and therefore it may be some time before it is put to practical use.

We have to concentrate on what we have at the moment. We know, and I have tried to show, that the superiority of the Warsaw pact powers means that we are dependent upon our nuclear capabilities. However, we have to remember that when mobilisation occurs, the Defence Estimates show that 100,000 service men will go out of the country. That leaves us bare, in spite of what the Government are doing to create the new home service force. I do not believe that this will be sufficient to guard our installations. It would require only a small number of dedicated people to cripple our strategic installations and we have to face the fact that these people will be disguised. The people who have to detect them should be from the locality.

The Government's policy is to attach members of the new force to TA or regular units. They are all over the country but we should have a force, as has been suggested by Lord Hill-Norton, consisting of local people, perhaps armed with weapons that are inexpensive and not up to date, that can act as an organised and disciplined force to help to catch and, if necessary, to tackle these intruders. They would act as a sort of auxiliary army. With 100,000 troops leaving the country we would be left very thin on the ground.

We do not want a private army, but home defence, as outlined by Lord Hill-Norton, could be an invaluable asset to our army defences and to the Territorial Army and the reserves. The Government should give careful considera-tion to this and, during exercise Brave Defender perhaps, some experiments could take place. Any force must be responsible and under military authority. The cost would be small, but what it would give to defence would be great. I commend Lord Hill-Norton's proposition and I hope that he will be able to enlarge on it in the other place. I do not ask for an answer today, but we should have this point in mind, and give it serious thought. Perhaps during exercise Brave Defender, we could see how it would work with what we already have.

On a purely domestic level, I thank the Government for helping to expedite the rebuilding of Victoria barracks in Windsor.