Which amendment was to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
`believes that the plans outlined in the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1986, Cmnd. 9763, and in particular the Government's plans to buy the Trident nuclear system, are leading to damaging cuts in Britain's conventional defence capabilities at home and abroad and in Britain's defence industrial base; calls upon the Government to cancel Trident and to use the money saved for more practical non-nuclear defence purposes; declares that the security and the defence of the United Kingdom will be best served in future by maintaining strong conventional defences within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and not by acquiring a new generation of nuclear weaponry of any kind; and calls upon the Government to take an active part in securing the removal of all nuclear weapons from the United Kingdom and the reduction and abolition of all nuclear weapons, and also to make plain its opposition to the production and deployment of chemical weapons by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United States of America and any other nations', instead thereof.—[Mr. Denzil Davies.]
As the House well knows, we had a rather late start today, because of statements, other matters on the Order Paper and points of order. I propose to put a limit on speeches of 10 minutes between 7 and 9 o'clock, because there is a very long list of right hon. and hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate. I hope that those called before 7 o'clock will not abuse their position, having been called early. I intend today to give some precedence to those who were conscientious in their attendance during the debate yesterday.
In any democracy it is right that there should be a debate on how much of the nation's wealth is spent on defence, and how that allocated amount should be split between the various defence roles, including nuclear and conventional defence, and between the three services—or perhaps only two if certain of their Lordships in the other place have their way.
I welcome the contributions to the debate yesterday and look forward to further speeches from right hon. and hon. Members today. I should also like to pay tribute to the contribution from the Defence Select Committee, whose weighty and constructive report was published last week.
The Government are proud to proclaim their record on defence. The facts speak for themselves. Spending on defence has benefited from seven years of real growth since 1979 and the total budget for 1986–87 is some £18·5 billion. Of this, some £8·3 billion—or 45 per cent.—is to be spent on equipment for the armed forces, or virtually £1 million every hour.
We are buying a vast quantity of new equipment for the services and sustaining substantial employment in this country through our procurement spend. Nevertheless, as my right hon. Friend acknowledged to the Defence Select Committee, there are some difficult decisions ahead as the defence budget moves to a period of slight real decline. However, there is no question of having to withdraw from any major commitment or significant part thereof.
United Kingdom procurement spending now takes up 45 per cent. of the budget — the highest figure in the NATO Alliance. It has risen from a modest figure of 34 per cent. in 1975–76. Unlike the previous Labour Government, who increased the equipment percentage of the budget at the expense of service men's pay packets, the present Government have increased defence spending, paid our soldiers, sailors and airmen a realistic rate of pay and also, since 1979, increased spending on procurement in real terms by one third or £2 billion. As my right hon. and hon. Friends said yesterday, the quality of our service men is more important even than their equipment; they are our greatest asset. I join my right hon. and hon. Friends in paying tribute to their professionalism.
I should also like to pay tribute to Ministry of Defence civil servants in Whitehall, the research and development establishments—which have a world-wide reputation for expertise — and others. Indeed, one of the annual engagements that I fulfil, which gives me great pleasure, is to officiate at the award ceremony of British Empire Medals to long-serving and meritorious employees.
The Government are firmly committed to the maintenance of the strongest defences for the United Kingdom. We are committed to the maintenance of an independent strategic nuclear deterrent—earlier this year we ordered the first Trident submarine, HMS Vanguard — and to improving and increasing the quality and quantity of conventional equipment for the armed forces.
We often hear arguments about Trident being the cuckoo in the nest of conventional defence improvements. That is simply not the case. The reality is that our existing expenditure on the strategic nuclear force is only some 3·5 per cent. of the budget. While expenditure on Trident is substantial, it has to be seen in context. Over the 20-year period of Trident's introduction into service, the procurement cost of just under £9·9 billion compares with expenditure on British forces Germany over a comparable period at current levels of £46 billion, or nearly five times the total Trident spend. Put another way, Trident's total spend over its 20-year life is about half the total defence budget in any one year.
Too often employment implications of defence spending are overlooked. Some 1·2 million people in the United Kingdom derive their jobs directly or indirectly from defence. It is time Left wingers in the official Opposition party realised the extent of jobs sustained. Indeed, individually many hon. Members opposite do just that when they come to see me, almost on a daily basis, leading delegations to lobby me and other Ministers on orders. Too often it is a case of one voice for the corridors of Whitehall and another for the Labour party conference.
Any attempts by the Labour party to reduce defence spending, if it ever came to power, would unquestionably impact on employment. Moreover, 90 to 95 per cent. of the equipment budget is spent in the United Kingdom, either on national programmes or on the United Kingdom's work share of collaborative programmes.
Indeed, it is interesting to observe that United Kingdom defence industries with a combination of substantial home spend and a demanding customer in the form of our armed services, spurred on by Warsaw pact technolgical progress, have produced products of a quality and sophistication to equal any in the world. Contrast that with our dismal performance in the consumer field, and perhaps there are lessons to be learned. It just shows what can be done.
I should now like to turn to the main theme of my speech — the increased value for money in defence procurement. I shall come later to the equipment orders that the Government have placed and the main programmes of the three services.
Major credit for increased value for money in defence procurement must go to my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who initiated many lasting changes in the way MOD thinks. In addition, my right hon. Friend was responsible for appointing Mr. Peter Levene, the Chief of Defence Procurement, to whom I pay tribute for his excellent work in tightening MOD's procurement and for making the Procurement Executive a more discerning, commercially minded, hard-nosed customer. I am only glad that we pay Mr. Levene a fixed salary, rather than a percentage of the savings he has brought about.
While the Minister is lauding the activities of the Procurement Executive, will he explain why yesterday, a few weeks before the contemplated order for frigates, the Secretary of State could not tell us the number of frigates that he is likely to order, far less the yards in which the orders will be placed?
I shall deal with the question of frigates later.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is fully committed to our continuing efforts to get greater efficiency into our procurement spend.
I summarise the broad thrust of our initiatives under the acronym CCCPR — not the Soviet threat, but competition, collaboration, con tractorisation, privatisation, and rationalisation. I will deal with each in turn.
First, I shall deal with competition and our drive to achieve the best value for money. The percentage by value of contracts placed following competition or in a competitive environment has increased considerably over the past three years. In 1983–84 it was 38 per cent.; in 1984–85, 46 per cent.; in 1985–86, 64 per cent. That is an increase of about two thirds over three years, which the Public Accounts Committee and the Defence Select Committee have specifically praised. Competition has achieved demonstrable and highly significant savings. We estimate that competition savings produced about £100 million on the Warrior APC, £60 million on the basic trainer for the Royal Air Force and £20 million, including batch order savings, on three SSK diesel electric submarines.
On a more prosaic level, we ran a competition for the supply of bread and bread rolls. The best customer discount following the competition—the yeast expensive — was 42 per cent. lower than the retail price which previously formed the basis of the price.
I was going to say that I would rise to the occasion. My hon. Friend talks about competitive tendering and the success of his programme. Does he accept that there is concern in some circles that when competitive tendering involves foreign countries tendering for equipment in the United Kingdom in order to reduce the price and make the deal more potentially competitive, it can nevertheless have a detrimental effect on home-based industries which must provide their specifications for the tenders? Regarding royal ordnance factories in particular, in which I declare an interest, my hon. Friend will know that there is considerable concern about Belgium, West Germany and France competing for tenders in the United Kingdom in a way which royal ordnance factories cannot compete abroad.
In taking decisions on refits for the royal yacht Britannia and others, we must strike some sort of balance between the core programme for the royal dockyards and the amount that we can give to the private sector and make available through competition. The trade unions in Devonport entered into a virtual no-strike agreement with us and made it particularly attractive to put Britannia into Devonport.
We are also maximising competition at the subcontract level, and taking steps to make firms more aware of contracting opportunities, including, shortly, a fortnightly publication listing major invitations to tender and MOD contracts.
Over the past 10 years a regime of generous interim payments has ensured that in many cases firms have continued to receive reimbursement of costs and profit from MOD, even if projects have fallen behind and deliveries have been delayed. In the past we have made interim payments of up to 100 per cent. of costs incurred by a contractor, even including interim payment of profit. We intend to reduce these payments, and interim payment of profit will normally be discontinued. The essence of our new approach is to ensure that our contractors have a strong incentive to supply and perform on time. We demand a more direct relationship between defence spending and contractors' achievement. There have been no major awards of such contracts for two years, and they now account for less than 10 per cent. by value of MOD contracts.
I now turn to collaboration, which many hon. Members discussed yesterday, including my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) who would like to be present this afternoon but is chairing a Select Committee.
Collaboration helps to increase the standardisation and interoperability of equipment in service with NATO's forces; enables us and our allies to make better collective use of the same resources available to us for defence; enhances the technological capabilities of our industries; and demonstrates the political will of Alliance nations to work together for our common defence. That is the background to the initiative taken by the European Defence Ministers in the Independent European Programme Group.
Before leaving collaboration, it would be wrong to ignore the European fighter aircraft. Project definition is proceeding satisfactorily on the basis of the aircraft characteristics agreed last summer in Turin to a planned conclusion later this year, when decisions on the way ahead will be taken.
I am pleased that the Select Committee on Defence in its report on the SDE86 welcomed the progress achieved on the collaborative front, but rightly noted that it would take some years for the savings from recent initiatives to accrue to the defence budget.
Thirdly, I should like to deal with contractorisation. It is our policy not to retain in the public sector any defence support activity unless this is operationally essential or unless there are demonstrable savings in such a course. We start from a position of asking why the Government are doing this. Examples of contractorisation in the Ministry of Defence are cleaning, laundering and some aircraft servicing. As the House will be aware, we are also embarking on the introduction of commercial management for the royal dockyards.
I should like to ask my hon. Friend a question about the privatisation of MOD services. Is he aware that a number of Ministry of Defence workers in my constituency and elsewhere feel that they are not being kept fully in the picture by the Ministry of Defence about the way in which contractorisation is being implemented? As they are not told until very late in the day about how their jobs will be affected, they feel that they cannot plan their future. Will my hon. Friend do his best to try to inform them more fully about the future of contractorisation?
We try our best, but if my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) will tell me the name of the establishment, I will look into the matter to see what I can do to speed the flow of information.
The Dockyard Services Bill is currently progressing through another place, and the level of commercial interest in managing the dockyards remains satisfactory. We await responses to our invitation to tender from potential bidders at the end of this month. We expect to be able to announce the outcome by November and to have the new system up and running by April next year.
The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas), from a sedentary position, shouts, "How many?" He has a specific interest in Rosyth. I can tell him that we expect to have interest and specific tenders from three groups — Babcock Weir, Balfour Beatty Thorn-EMI and Press Offshore.
Fourthly, I shall deal with privatisation. There has been much debate recently on the future of Royal Ordnance plc, and the situation is still somewhat fluid. There is little I can add to the answers given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 18 June. He said:
It remains my intention to privatise Royal Ordnance, and I am giving further consideration to the means of achieving this."—[Official Report, 18 June 1986; Vol. 99, c. 1034.]
In the meantime a lot is being done to make Royal Ordnance plc more efficient. Its range of products on display last week at the British Army equipment exhibition was very impressive, and I pay tribute to the firm's vigorous pursuit of export opportunities. That has the full support of my Department.
As my hon. Friend knows, there is great anxiety in Leeds. There has been much distress in the company. In view of that, can my hon. Friend explain what took place? On what basis was the change decided, because clearly the privatisation approved by the House will not proceed in the way that it was agreed? Is it because of the Challenger tank order, or are we definitely going ahead with Challenger?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made the position clear. A number of factors were taken into account, and it was decided that the time was not appropriate for the flotation that we originally hoped for.
Finally, I shall deal with rationalisation. As part of efficiency drives, we look to ensure that the individual services do not duplicate facilities that could sensibly be undertaken on a unified basis. Successes in this area include catering training, parts of defence medical services and even the defence staffs of the Ministry of Defence itself. I should like to take this opportunity to announce that, having reviewed the proposed move of textile and clothing contracts work from Leeds to Glasgow in the light of comments from several right hon. and hon. Members and the Public Accounts Committee, I have decided that the work will remain in Leeds.
Will my hon. Friend accept the thanks of many people in Leeds for the sound judgment that he, as a textile MP, has shown? It is sensible to leave the textile and clothing branch in Leeds and not to pursue the senseless moving of jobs from one part of Britain to another. I hope that as an engineering MP my hon. Friend will show the same good judgment when he considers the future of the royal ordnance factory at Barnbow and the seventh regiment of Challenger tanks.
I am grateful for the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) on the retention of the clothing operations in Leeds. There is nothing useful that I can add about the royal ordnance plants in Leeds, but obviously we will take all factors into account.
The Minister is not normally a devious character, but he was a lot less than frank with his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson). If privatisation proceeds, will not Barnbow have to compete in open tender against companies like Vickers at Scotswood on Tyne? That is causing more than a flutter in the dovecotes.
We are taking all factors into account in considering the future of tank orders. At this time I have no more to say about that subject. It is my intention that the planned economies and the improved efficiency offered by the move from Leeds to Glasgow shall become priority targets for the Leeds staff.
Hon. Members may be forgiven for overlooking the small box on page 51 of the "Statement on the Defence Estimates" on energy efficiency. However, the Select Committee on Defence published a memorandum on this subject in its recent report, and I am grateful for this.
The MOD is playing a full part in the Department of Energy's campaign this year. The MOD is a major user and its non-operational energy bill runs at over £240 million a year. It is clearly sensible for the MOD to make the most of potential savings. We have already reduced our consumption by 30 per cent. since the oil crisis of the early 1970s, and, to give further impetus to improvements on energy efficiency, I have recently set up a steering group of senior officers to oversee implementation of an energy efficiency programme with a target of a further 25 per cent. reduction in the MOD's energy bill over the next five years.
I should like to say a few words about MOD support for defence exports. This is understandably an area where commercial confidentiality and the secrecy requirements of customers limit what can be said, but, as I said earlier, defence exports sustain 120,000 jobs in the United Kingdom and this figure is set to rise following the increase of 17 per cent. in real terms in sales last year to £2·9 billion. This is around 9 per cent. of the world market. I pay tribute to the work of our defence export services organisation and to our defence attaches overseas for assisting British industry to this achievement. These figures do not include the outstanding Saudi aerospace deal concluded last year.
I am sure that the House will welcome today's announcement that the Australian army has selected Land Rover to fulfil a £50 million order for a 2,900-vehicle requirement. That order was won in the face of stiff international competition.
I am not in the business of giving categorical assurances. The Saudi contract is not being renegotiated, as was suggested by the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) at Question Time yesterday. The fall in the price of oil has affected the payments for the contract, and an element of discusson is taking place about that.
I have nothing to add to what I have said. With respect to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), we are talking about an extremely serious and major contract.
Defence Ministers and other members of the Government travel extensively in support of United Kingdom defence exports. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is a vigorous and effective supporter of these efforts and played a key role in the Saudi order. In the nearly three years that I have been in post I have visited many contries in support of United Kingdom defence exporters. I have been to Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, Yugoslavia and Zimbabwe, and, of course I have visited a number of NATO countries. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ha, ha!"] My travel is exceeded only by that of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins).
Ministers also support extensively the defence equipment exhibitions. This year has seen the highly successful British Army equipment exhibition, opened last week by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. During my visit, I unveiled two new armoured vehicles for the export market, and saw many exciting new British products, as did a number of right hon. and hon. Members.
I am sure that we are all looking forward to the best Farnborough air show for many years this September, with, hopefully, three new British aircraft making their flying debuts — the British Aerospace ATP, the Hawk 200, and the EAP.
As my hon. Friend knows, the EAP is the first British fighter for 30 years. Will he do his best, and ask his right hon. Friend to do his best, to ensure that, as with the Hanover air show where the Gennan Chancellor is present and the French exhibition where the French President is present, the Prime Minister will go to Farnborough to witness the flying of the EAP in competition with the Rafale, which is the French version, in order to give the seal of approval to a superb aeroplane which will be the follow-on to the European fighter?
The hon. Gentleman referred to the British Army equipment exhibition. Cart he say a little about the nature of those sales, because some equipment appears to be going to countries that are using the equipment not to equip their armies, navies, and so on, but for internal repression? Some of the world's most oppressive regimes send their buyers to such exhibitions. Does that bother the hon. Gentleman?
We are extremely careful. We endeavour to play cricket and to be fair. Sometimes, we are criticised for that. All items of defence equipment that come up for export need to be licensed. Obviously, we take into account the individual circumstances of the countries which endeavour to purchase. If it is our view that the regime is questionable and that the arms would be used for internal repressive purposes, we do not grant an export licence.
Can the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that when he plays cricket regarding such exports, he will play better cricket than the English team is doing at the moment?
I turn to the re-equipment programmes of the three services.
Since 1979, this Government have ordered 52 warships for the Royal Navy to a total value at today's prices of some £4·5 billion. These include nine frigates— as we have said before, it is our intention to announce further orders for type 23 frigates before the House rises—five nuclear-powered fleet submarines, four diesel-electric submarines, 21 mine counter-measure vessels and, of course, HMS Vanguard, the first Trident submarine. Seven of these vessels have been ordered since last year's White Paper including two further first-of-class vessels —HMS Sandown—a single-role minehunter—and RFA Fort Victoria — an auxiliary oiler replenishment vessel. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced yesterday that tenders will be sought for up to four more fleet minesweepers.
Aside from the type 23 frigate orders I mentioned, I am happy to confirm to the House that it is our intention to make an announcement on future amphibious capability later this year. I acknowledge the importance attached to this capability by the Defence Select Committee and can confirm that the concept of an aviation support ship is included in our studies. I look forward to spending 24 hours at sea aboard HMS Intrepid later this month to see at first hand the work of the amphibious forces. Fearless and Intrepid are, of course, planned to continue in service until the mid-1990s.
We have not neglected new equipment for the Navy. The Sting Ray lightweight torpedo is now in service, and earlier this year we announced an order with Marconi Underwater Systems Ltd. for more than 2,000 Sting Rays, and development of the Spearfish heavyweight torpedo is continuing. Our existing heavyweight torpedo — the Tigerfish—has demonstrated a notable improvement in performance.
The sinking of the Lowestoft by Tigerfish was followed by an extremely successful series of sea trials off the coast of Florida. Does my hon. Friend agree that that makes Tigerfish an extremely valuable contender for the contract for the United States navy for a conventional heavyweight torpedo, and that it would be desirable if all efforts, not only of the Marconi company but of our defence sales staff abroad, were made to assist in our gaining what would be a valuable break into the American arms market?
I am happy to do what my hon. Friend asks. We wish it well. We expect it to be an effective weapon. It deserves serious consideration by the United States navy. It will have the full support of our Department and our defence export services organisation.
Is it not a fact that to maintain a frigate force of 50–I hope that it is 50 and not "about 50" —it is essential to order at least three new frigates a year, unless we are to have a Navy composed of aging Leanders and type 12s which are expensive in terms of fuel and personnel? Therefore, if three type 23 frigates were not ordered this year, all hon. Members and the public would regard with grave suspicion the maintenance of those 50 frigates.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I have nothing further to add in terms of orders, except to say that the figure is not 50—I know that my hon. Friend will be sad about that—but is about 50. It is a question of both new orders and the length of time that we decide to run on ships, as my hon. Friend knows.
Our underwater navy — which currently comprises four Polaris SSBNs, 14 nuclear-powered fleet submarines, to be augmented by HMS Torbay around the turn of the year, and 15 diesel-electric submarines—is unquestionably the most powerful outside the two super-powers.
The last year has also seen developments in air defence for the fleet. We have ordered a further seven Phalanx and nine Dutch Goalkeeper close-in weapons systems for fitting to Her Majesty's ships — bringing the total of these systems ordered to 30 Phalanx and 15 Goalkeeper. We have also ordered a further quantity of Sea Dart area air defence missiles.
The Royal Air Force is now deriving the benefit in front-line service of a major re-equipment programme. Already, nearly 500 RAF aircraft have been ordered since 1979. The centrepiece of this modernisation is the collaborative Tornado aircraft, the strike-attack variant of which—the Tornado GR1 — now equips nine RAF squadrons, three in the United Kingdom and six in Germany.
The Tornado GR1 is capable of the highest levels of performance, as was reflected very satisfactorily for the second year running by Tornado crews from 27 Squadron carrying off the prizes at the USAF strategic air command bombing competition. I give all credit to those involved.
The Tornado GR1's all-weather low-level performance will enable it to penetrate Warsaw pact air defences, should the need arise, and deliver its weapons with great accuracy.
This year has seen the acceptance into service of the prime weapon for the Tornado GR1—the JP233 airfield denial weapon. Also accepted into service this year was the improved version of the BL755 anti-armour cluster bomb —primarily for the Harrier force, but also portable on the Tornado. Studies into a next generation of anti-armour missile are under way.
The first two prototype Harrier GR5 aircraft were delivered to the RAF during the course of last year to commence trials. Production aircraft from the first batch of 60 aircraft currently on order will start delivery next year and a quantity of long lead items for a second batch have recently been ordered. The size of the second batch aircraft order will be decided towards the end of the year. We are also working closely with our American collaborative partners on the GR5 on jointly developing a night attack system for the aircraft.
In the maritime role, the British Aerospace anti-surface ship missile Sea Eagle was accepted into service last year by the RAF's Buccaneer force. The aircraft themselves are being given an avionic update to exploit the full capabilities of this effective missile.
I should like to turn now to air defence. I have mentioned already the successful progress of the collaborative EFA programme. For United Kingdom air defence, deliveries of the Tornado ADV fighter have commenced to the operational conversion unit at RAF Coningsby. The first of seven Tornado fighter squadrons will form next year, and we will be increasing the number of fighters available to the United Kingdom air defence by running on two Phantom squadrons even after all Tornado squadrons are formed. Recently 74 Squadron, with its Phantom F4J aircraft— bought from the USA to compensate for aircraft deployed to the Falklands—became operational. The conversion of Hawk aircraft to carry Sidewinder missiles and a gun to augment air defence assets in war was completed last month by British Aerospace—four months ahead of schedule.
On the ground, the programme to replace completely United Kingdom air defence radars and communications links is well advanced. There is significant financial support from NATO for this. Last year a number of new radars were accepted into service.
Back in the air, the extensive enhancement of air-to-air refuelling capability continues with the completion of deliveries to the first squadron of VC10 three-point tankers and the delivery of the first three of the first batch of six TriStar strategic tankers. A further three TriStars have been bought and competitions will be held in due course for the conversion of these aircraft and more VC10s to tankers.
However, our greatest concern in air defence is airborne early warning. The House is well aware of the difficulties with the Nimrod AEW programme. The present position is that we have received proposals for AEW systems from six contractors, including GEC Avionics, Boeing, Grumman and Lockheed. Contractors have been asked to submit firm price bids by the beginning of next week, 7 July. There is nothing that I can usefully add at this stage.
I do not want to pre-empt the decision which my hon. Friend must begin to consider on 7 July. However, in view of the reported comments of the Commander-in-Chief, Strike Command, that AEW is "unequivocally", to use his words, -a crucial part of air defence", will my hon. Friend, in considering the choice between the E3, Hawkeye, Orion, Nimrod and Cirumman, assure the House at least that he will be guided solely by the RAF's own criteria of cost, time scale and, above all, performance?
I am happy to say that the operational considerations are paramount. We must get the system that is necessary for the defence of this country. Obviously, cost comes into it, but the operational aspects must come first.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind in making his decision, which we all recognise is crucial, that if the Nimrod system is cancelled per se 2,500 jobs will be at risk, Britain will be excluded from AEW technology for perhaps 30 years and from the potential for exports worth perhaps £2 billion or more and the British taxpayer wil be faced with the cost of a write-off of perhaps £900 million?
Will my hon. Friend remember that, in every instance in which the RAF has had foisted on it a political choice of aircraft or equipment, in time the choice has been found never to have worked and always to have been costly to maintain and operate? We must not make the same mistake again.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I well remember his comments on our decision to purchase the RAF trainer, the Shorts Tucano.
Turning now to the Army equipment programme, I am pleased to be able to report steady progress in improving and updating the Army's equipment, particularly its armoured vehicles, artillery, air defence, small arms and communications.
Starting with the most important piece of equipment, the mark 1 infantryman, we are equipping him with a new rifle—the SA80 — of which 175.000 were ordered last year and for which further tenders have just been sought from United Kingdom prime contractors. After some problems with setting up large-scale production, the weapon will, we hope, enter service in quantity early next year. In the meantime, weapons are being delivered to our training organisation.
Without wishing to give the impression of favouritism, it nevertheless seems clear to me that the gunners did rather well last year from Army orders. I recently announced the order for three regiments of the multiple-launch rocket system — a very effective depth -fire weapon that will give BAOR a major capability improvement over existing M107 guns. I am very pleased that most of the European offtake, including the United Kingdom's main production order, from this multinational programme will be made in Europe, bringing a total of £250 million of work to the United Kingdom alone. The MLRS programme represents a considerable success for European collaboration and transatlantic co-operation. It is a model for other programmes.
The gunners will benefit also from the battlefield artillery target engagement system—BATES—a kind of clearing house for potential targets, made by Marconi Space and Defence Systems, which was ordered last year. To gather information for BATES and other systems, we also ordered the Phoenix remotely piloted vehicle.
While on the Royal Artillery, I must mention also the SP70 self-propelled gun, whose name, sadly, is increasingly inappropriate and revealing as we go into 1986. The House will wish to be aware that the national armaments directors of the trilateral participating nations are currently reviewing the whole troubled programme and will shortly be putting recommendations to Ministers on the way ahead. From the United Kingdom point of view, we are looking for an effective system to enter service as soon as possible.
We have ordered also, since the previous defence debate, bomblet shells for the artillery which will offer a marked improvement in lethality and coverage over the present high explosive shell, in certain circumstances.
In the anti-tank role, the Challenger main battle tank, with much improved mobility and protection over Chieftain, is now entering service with BAOR in quantity. Six regiments have so far been ordered, and we are considering a seventh. Collaborative studies into the next generation main battle tank are at an early stage. For Challengers that get bogged down, we have ordered — after successful competition last year — a quantity of ARRVs. We hope shortly to place orders for the LAW 80 and collaborative development of the Milan successor., known as TRIGAT, in which, it is hoped, will involve eight European nations. That is expected to be launched at the end of the year. We expect to mount a variant of TRIGAT on the light attack helicopter, on which we hope shortly to sign an agreement to proceed with project definition based on the Al29 helicopter, with the Italians, Dutch and Spanish. In the meantime, more Lynx helicopters fitted with TOW missiles will be entering service during the next 12 months to enhance firepower in the central region.
While on helicopters, I should like to say that our studies of battlefield mobility requirements are being pressed ahead with dispatch, but I am advised by our military experts that a clear way ahead will not emerge before the end of year. For the Royal Corps of Transport, we hope soon to place orders for the DROPS logistic system. The signallers will also be pleased with the entry into service this year of the Plessey Ptarmigan trunk communications system for BAOR. Command and control will be further improved with the Plessey Wavell ADP system, which also entered service last year. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State confirmed yesterday the production order with Marconi for the full width attack mine fuse for Barmine is being placed.
The hon. Gentleman went so fast that I did not realise he had covered helicopters. Is he suggesting that the AST404 has now gone out of the window? Is he aware that he paid tribute to the previous secretary of State for Defence—the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine)—who took a certain view on Westland? That view does not seem to accord with the one that the hon. Gentleman has presented to us. Does he realise that more than 15 months ago hon. Members on both sides of the House came to see him about the difficulties faced by Westland? Those difficulties still exist. Will the hon. Gentleman please bear in mind that Rolls-Royce has an interest in this and that the RTM322 engine is involved? There has been a very long delay on helicopers.
I am sure that the House appreciates fully the hon. Gentleman's generosity in giving way so much. Will he be able to announce in the near future at least the order for the 15 Sea Kings, which has been in the pipeline for so long? I am sure that the hon. Gentleman recognises that the order is eagerly awaited. I am sure that he must be able to say when the announcement will be made.
Rounding off my remarks about the Army, I return to the mark 1 infantryman. To lighten his load, we have ordered 23 battalions worth of a combination of the GKN Warrior tracked APC which, with its Rarden cannon in the turret makes a major enhancement to infantry firepower together with the Saxon wheeled APC. All regular infantry units in BAOR will he mechanised with Warrior 4 which accords with the new mobile concept of BAOR defensive operations described in the "Statement on the Defence Estimates".
Also lightening the infantryman's load—in another sense — is the new mark 6 composite-material helmet now in service with units in Northern Ireland and which will gradually replace the unpopular old steel helmet in all three services and the Territorial Army. I am told that our troops are very pleased with the lighter and more comfortable new helmet, which also affords greater protection.
Our forces and the taxpayer are entitled to expect the most efficient and sensible use of our substantial budget. In the past I think it is fair to say that, as a generalisation, our defence industries have had a pretty good innings. We certainly want a prosperous and profitable defence contracting sector from which to penetrate overseas markets, but the days of cost-plus contracts and bloated progress payments are gone.
A massive advance has been made by this Government on all fronts to tighten our management, our controls and the numbers we employ. Our task is not finished, but our three services and our nation should be proud of what we have achieved.
It would be inappropriate if we did not start today by noting that it is the 70th anniversary of the battle of the Somme. On the first day of that offensive, we suffered 60,000 casualties, 20,000 of them dead. The occasion is a fine one for us to remember that war is too important to be left to generals and it is also important for us to remember the degree of responsibility that we have to our service men when we are conducting this type of debate. Therefore, I believe that the approach taken by both sides of the House is that, when we are looking at this matter, we are looking at what is rationally the best way of defending our country and protecting the lives of our service men.
During that battle, which was to last four and a half months, there were numerous uses of chemical weapons. They were either sprayed across the battlefield or fired by shells, and the results were always horrifying. As Wilfred Owen said:
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud".
It is for that reason that I refer to the last sentence of our amendment which states that we will not, under any circumstances, accept binary chemical weapons in this country, we will not be party to their manufacture and, we will not agree to their being used, in so far as we are able to control it, by members of NATO.
I will give way to those people who were here for the debate yesterday. Time is limited. I have specifically reduced the amount I was going to say on chemical warfare because other hon. Members will want to make their point. I am merely establishing the principle of where we stand. I will give way to people who were here yesterday but otherwise I will get on with the debate.
I will not give way to that hon. Gentleman until he publicly apologises to me, as he did in private.
Yesterday, the Under-Secretary referred to the conduct and quality of the armed forces and the help being given to them. Yesterday he paid proper attention to the help that has been given with regard to low wages and said that a review has been established to look into the pay and allowances. The Opposition welcome that review. Whatever the excuses, ideas or rationale behind it, for service men in Germany the cut in the overseas allowance was a cut in their wages. It was a cut in the basis on which they had budgeted for themselves and their families and it was a real cut, no matter how much we may rationalise it in the House. Therefore, ways of trying to meet that sort of problem for our service men in Germany have to be examined carefully.
The Under-Secretary did not mention a matter which has been to the forefront in the press over the past three
or four weeks—allegations of colour discrimination in the armed forces, in their promotion policies and in their recruitment policies. Reading the replies we got from the Under-Secretary, one almost felt that one was in a "Catch-22" situation. The House will remember the background of "Catch-22" and the American airmen who felt that they had flown too many missions:
Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was to ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to.
That is the same Catch-22 we have had from the Ministry in reply to the questions on racial discrimination. According to the Race Relations Act 1976, all recruitment and promotion is based solely on merit. However, ethnic minorities are hardly ever promoted. There is no discrimination in the armed forces because the Ministry of Defence is an equal opportunities employer, even though no ethnic minorities were represented in the trooping of the colour and none will take part in ceremonial duties outside Buckingham palace, except the Regiment of Ghurkas. Very few are senior NCOs and career officers within the armed forces.
If any discrimination did occur, we are told, the individual could have his case investigated under the redress of grievances procedure. Since no cases have been brought under the redress of grievances procedure, obviously there is no discrimination. As there is no discrimination, there is no need for this type of ethnic monitoring system to ensure equality. That was the rationale and reasoning behind the replies of the Ministry of Defence. However, it was the Prime Minister who put the bomb below the Ministry's position because she said in reply to me:
The possibility of introducing ethnic monitoring to the armed forces is being considered as part of their routine duties by those in the Ministry of Defence who are responsible for service personnel, policies and practices."—[Official Report. Friday 20 June 1986; Vol. 99, c. 659.]
If there is no discrimination or complaint, why should the Prime Minister think it is necessary to have a routine inquiry into it? Evidently, there is discrimination in the armed forces, so a deadlock is introduced.
It seems to the Opposition that a system must be set up to look seriously into ethnic recruitment within the armed forces, not on the basis of positive discrimination to ensure that people who are not capable or able to do the job are promoted, but to ensure that those who are capable and able are promoted. The argument that the Ministry puts forward—that all promotion is on merit—is insulting to the ethnic minorities in this country, because it suggests that they have no merit and are not worthy of being considered as senior NCOs and commissioned ranks. The Observer said that it is no longer enough for organisations such as the Ministry of Defence to say blandly that they do not discriminate, without providing monitoring evidence to support the assertion.
It is interesting that nearly 100 flag and field officers in the United States armed forces are black and Major-General Blunt, a black officer in the United States armed forces, said:
Until the leadership of the British Army make the decision to open up the higher ranks of the Army to Blacks, there will he racial problems in the British Army.
I would go so far as to say that there will be racial problems within the United Kingdom. If we regard the
armed forces as the first strength and first organisation to protect our country and our people, if blacks and Asians can be in that force it shows that they have been accepted as responsible citizens within our society. That is more fundamental perhaps than any of the other positive policies that are being considered in the United Kingdom.
The Under-Secretary made an interesting statement about the aviation support: vessel. It is an interesting concept. I do not want to pursue it too much now, but perhaps his right hon. Friend the Minister will address it when he replies. Is it merely a helicopter support ship? Is it the Arapaho proposal taken and examined or is it a mini-carrier? What exactly does it refer to?
In listening to the Under-Secretary I was also interested to hear what he had to say about the future of the European fighter aircraft. That point was interesting because, in the wording of page 7 of the report of the Select Committee on Defence, there is a query over the European fighter aircraft's future. In reply to a question from the hon. Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) the Secretary of State said:
None of us would regard ourselves as fully committed or firmly committed at all to the next stages. That will have to be taken when it arises. But it is the case that in the next three years ahead there is a small amount of expenditure on development, experimental work, etc.".
In discussions on this matter the Under-Secretary of State said that, when the Ministry comes to the end of project definition at the beginning of the autumn, it will then consider which course should be taken.
As I understand it, there has already been slippage in this matter. I was originally under the impression that the decision was to be taken at the beginning of the year and that we would then talk about firm orders and manufacturing capability. Now, because of slippage, I understand that the contracted parties are not likely to take a decision until the middle of next year at the earliest. Is that correct? What does that mean in terms of programme slippage? Does it mean, as the Opposition suspect, that there will be no firm orders until after 1988? If that is the case, that will represent yet another Government cut.
I was also interested to read about Skynet in the Estimates and the White Paper. As a result of the accidents involving Challenger and Aria ne, there has been a setback in our hopes for our satellites. It is important that we should have an independent defence capability. I would therefore like to raise the issue of HOTOL as a possible replacement for the two systems to which I have already referred.
Why has the Ministry of Defence not taken a more positive interest in the HOTOL development? If HOTOL is to have a future, the project must be important to our defence, as it will be able to get our satellites—which are necessary for defence — quickly, efficiently and cheaply into the sky.
We have been told that the Americans at NASA have decided to take on board the same concept and are pouring vast funds into the air orient express. We would like to think that the Ministry of Defence is as active in seeking European support for HOTOL as the French are in seeking interest in their Hermes project. HOTOL appears to be far more interesting and to hold out greater hope for our defence and for satellite communications than Hermes. It would also be a great step forward for the Ministry of Defence.
The Secretary of State was remarkably coy yesterday about star wars. That is understandable, as the whole scene has changed since the former Secretary of State for Defence trumpeted that we would have $1·5 billion-worth of orders for SDI coming to British industry. The retiring British ambassador to the United States was quoted in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday as saying:
He rates Anglo-American negotiations over President Reagan's 'Star Wars' project one of the major achievements of the past four years, with Britain taking part 'not just as a contractor but a partner'.
Great! Star wars will involve some $26 billion, which is an astronomical sum of money, and we will be involved as a partner.
However, it turns out that we are to be a limited partner, a partner limited to such an extent that the contracts that we have received arising from the secret memorandum of understanding are less than I per cent. or 0·5 per cent. of the $1·5 billion that was recently announced. In fact, the programme has been so disastrous that the Ministry has been forced to bring into the Department from outside industry Mr. Jim Powell of British Aerospace to rescue the British component of SDI as envisaged by the Ministry. Understandably, the Secretary of State was coy on this matter, and understandably, there was little discussion of it from the Under-Secretary of State when he considered its progress.
Frankly, the Opposition believe that British industry is correct to take a caustic and suspicious view of SDI. It is seen by British industry as little more than a confidence trick to drain away our technology and, perhaps more importantly, our technologists. It has been sold by President Reagan as a non-nuclear defence system. That is its logic. Yet it can only work, according to the Americans, if there are nuclear explosions in space to generate the necessary X-rays and laser beams.
The whole world now knows that SDI is dangerous and expensive nonsense. It is dangerous for world peace because it accelerates the arms race, and is dangerous for British industry because it can seduce away our technicians and technology. I am pleased that British industry is regarding it very carefully.
If highly skilled people in this country want to take part in this kind of research and development and our firms do not take part, will these people not go to America anyway?
They may indeed do that. Unlike the Russians, we do not have any prohibition on the free transfer of our citizens. If they wish to go to America, that is a matter for them. If they want to be seduced by the almighty dollar, there is nothing we can do about it, any more than we can do anything about the departure of our surgeons or physicians. However, there are compensations other than the size of one's bank balance for living in this country; otherwise, why would the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins) and other hon. Members be here? We look forward to the time when my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) is Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) is Secretary of State for Defence.
The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State were very coy about Nimrod and the future of the early warning system, yet it is of the utmost importance to this country. The Under-Secretary said that the tenders would be received by 7 July. Will they be the final tenders? How and when will the decision be reached? As I understand it, the Ministry of Defence is sending a team to Long Island in the second and third week of this month to consider what Grumman is doing at Bethpage. If the Ministry is doing that, how quickly will we get a decision? Will a decision be made this month as was originally envisaged?
That is the kind of slippage that I welcome. I am grateful for the Under-Secretary's remarks and for the undertaking which he gave during the previous defence Question Time that the decision will be announced in the House. He gave that undertaking to me and I am grateful for it.
With great respect, the hon. Gentleman is not correct. I gave an undertaking to draw the hon. Gentleman's request to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I said that would be normal practice to make such an announcement in the House. However, I did not give a categorical assurance.
I like to see Government Whips sitting on the Front Bench telling people not to be cantankerous, when all they do is mutter away, either criticising their own party for letting them down or criticising the Opposition for putting them in their place. Really, the hon. Member for Calder Valley (Mr. Thompson) should not speak in that way.
Nimrod is a very important matter for this country. It is important because there is a continuing gap in our defences which must be filled. It is important because the amounts of money dependent on the decisions made could affect defence expenditure in other important areas. The situation has not been helped by the Government moving the goal posts, just as they did over the PC9, the RAF trainer. Thus, I hope that the goal posts will not be moved again.
The Under-Secretary of State spoke about the various options, but if the order does not go to GEC, it will be a major blow for British industry. Indeed, the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman), who has part of GEC avionics in his constituency, spoke about that in his intervention to the Under-Secretary of State. If the order does not go to GEC, important investments made partly by the Government and partly by the company will be written off. It will mean that two companies effectively in the United States only will be recognised as being able to produce that type of radar. Europe will be out of the running for a long time. It will also mean that the heavy investment made in RAF Waddington will have been wasted, even though the equipment has already been delivered and is in use. It has even been suggested that the future of RAF Waddington may be in question.
In order to meet the minimum RAF requirement, I understand that £250 million is required now for GEC, and a further £150 million is required to meet the original air staff requirement. That must be considered against a possible cost of £1·5 billion if we go for an American system. We are talking about 2,000 jobs and about leaving the field clear for the Americans. Europe would be contracting out of one of the most important areas of development in terms of defence and electronics generally.
That is a good question. The figure is based on the information that we could get. Indeed, I shall come to that point in a few moments. It is all a question of the amount of information available to the House, which in turn affects the level and quality of our debates. Indeed, I shall make the point now. The House lacks any proper informed discussion before decisions are made. We discuss issues after the Government have made decisions and have placed contracts. But the House and its Committees do not look at the on-line costs of major schemes. We have no outside way of monitoring the schemes. We have no way of looking at the way in which defence decisions are made. That point must be considered.
That may well be a subject for wider discussion another time, but I specifically asked the hon. Gentleman where he got the figure of £1·5 billion from. Is it just a figure that he has plucked from the air?
I accept what you say, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I turn to the statement made yesterday by the Secretary of State about defence cuts. He told us that he would be realistic. Yet everything that he said, in effect, cut our ability in conventional defence in favour of Trident. In the statement on the Defence Estimates, we are told that the Warsaw pact has 16,600 main battle tanks to NATO's 7,800. That is a ratio of more than 2:1 in favour of the Warsaw pact. Yesterday, the cancellation of the LAW mine was announced, together with a reduction in provision for future mine systems which could help to defeat a conventional attack. But if we do not have such conventional defences, the possibility of nuclear retaliation as a result of a flexible response is increased.
The Government have cut our conventional forces and our conventional capability in order to maintain Trident. The Defence Estimates claim that the Warsaw pact has a 2:1 advantage in terms of tactical fixed-wing aircraft. Yet yesterday, we were told that the second Harrier batch is likely to be postponed. We already know that the provision of the Tornado for the RAF is being considerably postponed in order to meet the Saudi order.
We are talking about cuts in our conventional forces and in our ability to meet a conventional attack, merely in order to fund Trident. The White Paper says that the Soviets have a 2·3: I advantage because of submarines. Yet yesterday, we were told that the type 22 frigates will not have the new advanced sonar ray system. The Minister cannot tell us when we shall get the frigates that we need. We are told that the Navy will have "about 50" frigates instead of the 50 that we were promised. What does "about 50" mean? Does it mean forty-seven, forty-eight or forty-nine? We know that the Government are reneging yet again.
Indeed, the Government are reneging on the commitment to conventional defences and are thus increasing the possibility of a nuclear war. They are lowering the nuclear threshold in order to pursue the ephemeral idea that Trident is somehow important to this country's defence. They somehow think that a weapon of suicide is necessary.
The pivot of Labour's collective defence policy is membership of NATO. That membership will be continued and strengthened under a Labour Government, while we pursue our policy of maintaining and strengthening our conventional forces, and of unilateral nuclear disarmament. We shall negotiate with our American allies the removal of their nuclear weapons systems from the United Kingdom. The Labour party recognises and accepts that facilities in the United Kingdom that are given to the United States are for the joint collective defence of western Europe. American bases in the United Kingdom are here for NATO purposes. Labour is quite happy to see them maintained for NATO purposes and for uses originally envisaged by the Alliance, provided that all nuclear weaponry is withdrawn.
However, the use of United Kingdom bases for United States out-of-area purposes— that is, out of the NATO treaty area—are ventures that were not envisaged in the original exchange of notes establishing United States bases in the United Kingdom. The Labour party therefore believes that, given our non-nuclear defence policy and the fact that the use of bases for non-NATO purposes is contrary to the original spirit of establishing them in the United Kingdom, there will have to be a more formal discussion with the United States and the establishment of an open treaty outlining the limits and the extent to which the United States bases in the United Kingdom can be used within the role originally assigned to them, particularly in the light of the Libyan adventure.
We say "particularly in the light of the Libyan adventure", because out-of-area activities by NATO were specifically drawn in by the United States when NATO was being considered. At the time, the United States did not want to be drawn into colonial wars as Britain, France, Holland and Belgium divested themselves of their empires. Equally, we do not want to be drawn into what many people regard as the United States' colonial and misjudged wars.
We are not in favour of the United States supporting terrorism in Nicaragua. We think that the votes for that were wrong and will only destroy those very ideals so nobly called for in the Declaration of Independence.
I understand that the hon. Gentleman spoke yesterday, so I shall not give way; I want people to understand the position of the Labour party.
Yesterday, many hon. Members said that the United States would, in a fit of pique, remove all its weapons and go home if we asked it to take away its nuclear weapons. but I have a higher regard for that country than to think it would act in that way.
Other things in the United Kingdom are more important to the United States than even its nuclear bases and the F111 s. One of them is Cheltenham. The United States ability to use our facilities in Cyprus is also more important to it than its nuclear bases. The Americans are hard-headed enough when negotiating to know that these matters are far more important. We can think and talk about them, because we are allies, but we are determined that eventually United States nuclear weapons will go, as ours will go.
The United States belongs to NATO for the same reason as the United Kingdom belongs to NATO. The United States regards it as being in its national interest to belong to NATO. When the United States decides that it is no longer in its national interest to remain a part of NATO, it will probably pick up its baseball bats and go home. It would be improper for the United States to be engaged in an alliance that it did not feel was in the strategic and economic interests of its people. We understand that. That is what alliances are made for. When the United States reaches that decision, whether it has nuclear bases in this country will matter not one jot. Should the population of the United States drift towards the Pacific coast and believe that its future is tied up with the Pacific basin, even the possession by the United States of a million nuclear bases in this country would not affect that decision.
The Labour party will have nothing to do with binary chemical weapons. A Labour Government will negotiate with our United States allies the withdrawal of its nuclear weapons from this country. If the United States wants this country to provide other facilities for it, we shall try to reach an open agreement with it. But the House and the people will know about that agreement. It will not be secret. Furthermore, the decisions that are taken will not be secret.
I had intended to say to the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen)—who cannot be here, unfortunately, for very proper reasons, and who has made his apologies to both sides of the House—that one of the reasons for the failure of acceptance of Chevaline and other nuclear weapons in this country was that the British people did not know what was being decided on their behalf. Had the right hon. Gentleman been here, I should have said to him that, whatever side he took in the argument over Chevaline, it is certain that the decision that he reached in secret with some of my right hon. Friends was one of the reasons for the Labour party debacle which forced him to leave the party. The decision was taken in secret because my right hon. Friends knew how the Labour party felt about the matter. Nevertheless, that decision was taken.
We cannot support the White Paper. The Estimates are based upon the fallacy that the Government will be able to retain their conventional commitments but still push through Trident. We do not believe that that can be done, nor do we believe that this country can go forward in that way. The Opposition believe that until this country abandons the strange idea that it is still in the super-power class and stops hankering for the maintenance of its own nuclear deterrent, it will never come to terms with its proper role and place in the world. We shall be unable to face the real challenges because we shall still be hankering after past glories that we can no longer achieve. That is what the policy of the Secretary of State for Defence is all about—glories that we shall never be able to achieve. Thereby, the real defence of our country is put at risk.
Well, now we know. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I must express gratitude to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) for the very clear way in which he has laid the policy of the Labour party on the table — no British nuclear weapons, unilateral cancellation and the removal of American nuclear facilities from this country. However, we would remain a member of NATO and rely upon American protection in NATO.
NATO's strategy is dependent upon American nuclear power, whether exercised on the continent or from the United States. I am not sure, therefore, what is meant by the Labour party's commitment to the removal of American nuclear facilities from this country. We would lose the goodwill of the United States, which regards us as a valid member of the Alliance. If I were considering the matter from the point of view of the Pentagon, I might think that that rather wiser Socialist leader, Felipe Gonzalez, would be a better bet than the Labour party. The Americans might therefore move their nuclear facilities to Spain. This is the most inconsequential strategy that has ever been propounded on the Floor of the House of Commons since somebody suggested at the time of Tobruk that the Duke of Gloucester should be made commander-in-chief.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, referred not once, but three or four times, to the "nonsense" of the strategic defence initiative. When the most powerful country in the world decides to pledge billions of dollars to the strategic defence initiative, surely a little more humility would be in order before reaching a judgment about whether this project is nonsense.
When this country is considering arms control and defence, one is worried about what is happening at Geneva and about the arms race. We have to ask ourselves what is behind the arms race and what caused it. I shall illustrate briefly what I believe to be the cause of the arms race.
I visited Romania in 1972 with my hon. Friend the Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill), where we talked to the Vice-President of Romania, a hardened Communist leader. He attached great importance to developing trade relations with the West. He said, "If you really want detente, you must always be a bit stronger than the Warsaw pact." He explained this in simple terms. He said that the dominant force in the Soviet Union is the military and industrial complex, though not for ideological reasons. It is a praetorian guard that defends the regime, and the generals, field marshals, colonels, scientists, managers and others have more access to privilege and perquisites than anybody else in Soviet countries. Therefore they have to justify their existence, and wherever there is a chance for them to expand they will take it. So he said, "Do not give them the chance. Always be just a little bit stronger than they are."
This was in the period of the Nixon-Kissinger detente. There was a rough balance between the two sides. When that period passed, we entered into what I might call loosely the Carter era, when the United States, Britain —under a Labour Government—and other countries in NATO lowered their guard, while the Soviets did nothing of the kind. We opened a window of opportunity to the Soviets, which they were quick to exploit and of which they were quick to take advantage.
There was a daring Soviet operation in Angola. The Soviets married up 20,000 Cuban troops with a huge load of Soviet weaponry — at great risk to themselves but successfully. They consolidated their base at Aden. They took a grip on Ethiopia and waged a successful war, again with surrogates, against Somalia. They established a base in Cam Ranh in Vietnam and encouraged the Vietnamese occupation of Kampuchea, but what shook us most was their invasion of Afghanistan with Red Army forces. Not content with all that, they went on to put a lot of arms and money through surrogates into Nicaragua.
Afghanistan woke up the West at last when the United States began to rearm, and so did we in western Europe, and President Reagan—all credit to him—set about restoring a balance of power in military terms in the world, a balance of what I think is called in Marxist circles the correlation of forces—not just in hardware, although that was most important, but in active support for the national liberation movements in Angola, in Afghanistan, in Nicaragua and, I hope, shortly in Ethiopia, where the resettlement policy, encouraged by the Marxist Government, has killed as many people as the famine did last year.
I hope that we will give all the help that we can to the generous initiatives of the United States to help people defend themselves against the Communist tyrannies imposed on them from the outside. Our SAS has very good experience of the technologies that should be used in this direction. It is worth noting that the Chinese take a similar view, at any rate on Kampuchea and Afghanistan.
I think that we ought to look at arms control and regional problems together. Of course we want to see the burden of the arms race diminished, but I think that we also want to see comparable concessions from the Soviet side in what I call the regional conflicts that have destroyed the limited detente that existed in the early part of the last decade. So far, I see no sign of that.
The Soviets have reinforced Angola for the latest offensive against UNITA, they have sent more troops into Afghanistan than ever before and they have tightened their grip on Ethiopia. I think that this is a situation that we cannot accept. It goes to the heart of the problem of arms control.
Mr. Gorbachev faces a crucial dilemma. He faces immense economic difficulties at home, exacerbated by the fall in the price of oil, which has diminished by about 30 per cent. the Soviets' capacity to earn hard currency. There is no way in which he can compete in an arms race— unless, of course, he abandons any attempt to reform his own economy, and we have no particular interest in seeing him reform his economy while he remains in the position in which he is.
Arms control and regional solutions should go hand in hand. We want to see the Soviets out of Angola, out of Ethiopia, out of Afghanistan, and out of Kampuchea. I am sure that the Americans will look after Nicaragua themselves. The correlation of forces at the present time is increasingly favourable to the position that we are in. One notes the rather interesting speech that Mr. Gorbachev made in Warsaw, I think, the day before yesterday. He said that he was not acting under pressure —he went out of his way to stress that. The truth is that he is acting under pressure, and it is because the correlation of forces is favourable to the West in a way that it was not in President Carter's time that he is prepared to begin to talk and to discuss. It is for that reason that he has not run out of the Geneva talks, in spite of all the threats. It is for that reason that he has not abandoned the summit.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Nicaragua and said, if I heard him correctly, that the Americans will look after Nicaragua. Is he saying that Nicaragua, a free and independent country, is somehow to have its affairs looked after by another power? Surely he does not mean that. Surely peace in the world depends upon countries being able to develop on their own without outside interference or the threat of outside attack.
I was saying just that, because I do not think that Nicaragua is a free and independent country. It is being subverted from outside. There is a strong Cuban and east European presence in there which has built up an army and the beginnings of an air force on really quite a threatening scale. When we begin to talk about intervening in the affairs of other countries, I do not know what the hon. Member's position is about South Africa, but it seems to me that everyone is quite prepared to play at that game at the momemt.
What worries me about this debate is the pressure under which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State finds himself to cut back on defence. He says that this is realistic. The same thing is happening in the United States. Congress is trying to cut back on the defence budget, and elections are coming along in the United States — and they are not all that far away here. If we relax, one can be sure that the Soviets will consolidate the gains that they have made and use them as springboards for the next advance. Where will it be — in Iran, in the Sudan, in Thailand? I do not know.
My right hon. Friend is beset by powerful adversaries. On the one hand there are those who want to cut taxation, and on the other there are those who want to increase expenditure on social services. They do not agree with each other, but they are absolutely agreed on one thing, and that is to cut back on defence, alas, yet the first priority is to maintain the security of our country. We should heed the advice given to me by the late Vice-President of Romania, "If you want detente, you must keep an edge over the Soviet Union."
The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said that he would like to broaden the scope of the debate a little. I should like to do the opposite and narrow the scope of it a little. It is a great strength of the House that we can discuss a wide range of issues, as the right hon. Gentleman has just done, and simultaneously listen to one specific aspect of the problems confronting us.
I want to ask the House to listen to a short speech on abolishing section 10 of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947, because this prevents service personnel who have been disabled by negligence from suing for damages. I am speaking of those who are on non-combatant duties. When service men are in battle, it is an acceptable doctrine that they should not be able to sue for negligence. That is very difficult to do. I am speaking of service personnel on non-combatant duties, who are deprived of their rights. I believe that it is wrong to do this when they are engaged in day-to-day duties.
The consequence of section 10 is that they receive grossly inadequate compensation. The Ministry of Defence argues that the pensions provided are adequate and are a substitute for compensation, but of course this is nonsense. My constituent, Mr. Martin Ketterick, who has been gravely disabled by alleged negligence, is receiving by way of pension only one third of what he would receive if he were able to sue for negligence. Other public servants, notably police and firemen, receive a pension and are able to sue for negligence.
A further consequence of section 10 is that disabled service men, disabled ex-service men or the relatives of those who are killed by negligence are denied information, and some of them are treated with disdain and arrogance by senior officers. I have abundant evidence to prove that point.
The arguments by the Ministry of Defence for preserving section 10 are ludicrous. It says, first, that there is no reasonable dividing line between military action and other duties; secondly, that to abolish section 10 would endanger discipline; thirdly, that its abolition would create anomalies; and fourthly, that service men may not be able to prove negligence. The first point is nonsense— any service man could tell the difference. Secondly, discipline has nothing to do with legal redress. Thirdly, the Ministry blithely disregards the anomalies that exist when a service man cannot sue, whereas other public servants can. Fourthly, whether a service man can prove his case is a matter for a court of law to decide, as happens with other public servants.
It is interesting that the Ministry of Defence has been reviewing section 10 since October 1983 — for nearly three years. Since then I have tabled parliamentary questions, I have initiated a parliamentary debate and I have tabled early-day motions. I have also taken a deputation to see the Secretary of State. None of those actions has produced one word from the Ministry. When the deputation met the Secretary of State on 20 February this year he listened attentively and we thought that we had had a good hearing, but since then we have had nothing positive from the Department. In a parliamentary answer on 17 June the Under-Secretary said that the review was well advanced, but the Ministry was unable to give a date for its completion. The delay by the Ministry is a condemnation of its ability to make decisions. There is no point in the Ministry saying that this is a complex issue. Most issues are complex.
To take three years to decide on such an issue is preposterous. It raises the question of what the Ministry of Defence has to hide. I can disclose tonight that the Ministry of Defence has taken action, but it is surreptitious and deplorable. It has put a blackout on public information.
Two weeks ago, on 17 June, I went to No. 10 Downing street with representatives of the Section Ten Abolition Group, which I helped to establish in the House of Commons with disabled ex-service men and relatives of others who have been killed, to present a petition. After the petition was presented, I was told that recruiting officers in the Ministry of Defence had been instructed by the Ministry not to be drawn by recruits or their parents on section 10. They had been instructed to stonewall and to say that section 10 was under review. In other words, on an issue which could have profound effects upon the future of recruits, recruiting officers have strict instructions to say nothing. I invite the Minister to confirm, or deny, that story, now or when he replies to the debate.
What is even worse is that a disabled ex-service man who has suffered because of section 10 has been threatened by the Ministry of Defence. He has been ordered to keep quiet. Mr. John Meredith works as a civil servant in the Royal Artillery school. He has given devoted service to the armed forces. He enlisted as a boy in 1941 and was discharged in 1971, after 30 years service to the Army. He was registered disabled in 1972. He feels very bitter about section 10. which prevents him from suing for negligence. He feels equally bitter about the effort to gag him. The day before he came to see me and to present that petition to the Prime Minister, Mr. Meredith was threatened by a senior official that he must not say anything detrimental to the Crown. He was warned that if he did so he would lose his service pension, his disability pension and his job. He was ordered to put into writing what he was doing the following day when he came to London to discuss the issue.
The Ministry of Defence is behaving like a bully because it knows that, as the implications of section 10 become more well known, it will be widely condemned in the House and outside.
I have much sympathy with the case that the right hon. Gentleman is advancing. Can he tell the House why Mr. Meredith, to whom he has referred at length, is contesting his position and the amount of disability allowance that he should receive from the Ministry of Defence? If the right hon. Gentleman did so——
I appreciate the question. The point is that Mr. Meredith was severely disabled and under section 10 has been denied the right to sue. I cannot give exact figures, because he is not my constituent, but I have been associated with him and he has no doubt that if he were able to sue he would get far more than he is getting from the Ministry now. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was in the House when I referred to Martin Ketterick, but he can get only one third of what he might have expected had he been able to sue. That was worked out by an actuary. I hope that that answers the question satisfactorily, even though I cannot give figures.
The Ministry is behaving abominably in trying to gag Mr. Meredith. The Ministry will not frighten him, because he is determined to speak out. The Minister should look into my allegation and give an answer this evening. The issue will be pursued.
The Section Ten Abolition Group is doing the job that should be done by the Ministry of Defence. The Ministry has a duty to inform all service personnel of the implications of section 10, so that they know their rights. STAG is putting advertisements in local newspapers telling service men and potential recruits of the implications of section 10. Some hon. Members and the Ministry of Defence do not like those advertisements, but they are simply stating the facts. To conceal the truth is to mislead. Therefore STAG is right to make the facts known. It is immoral to try to hide the truth, as the Ministry is trying to do, by showing its displeasure at the whole affair.
When he replies to the debate, the Minister should tell the House whether the Ministry is prepared to issue pamphlets or to indicate in some way to service personnel or to recruits exactly what section 10 means. The Minister has tried to put the case to me, but he should explain to all these people exactly what is happening.
Finally — I am sorry if I have taken longer than intended— the removal of section 10 will enable those who are entitled to compensation to receive it. I think that that would mark the end of the carelessness, arrogance and secrecy that we have seen. If I had time I could horrify the House with some of the letters from senior officers who have written, with disdain, to the widows of men who have been killed, stating that they had no right to information on how their husband was killed. That is appalling arrogance, and senior officers have no right to speak like that. There is a callousness in the services because senior officers are protected by section 10.
I hope that the Ministry of Defence will stop living in the past, complete the necessary reviews and give service men their rights. I want these rights in peace time, for noncombatant duties and not when people are at war. In peace time, they are as entitled to those rights as are other public servants.
The right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) is perfectly correct, in a debate on the Defence Estimates, although we are talking about matters concerning £18 billion, Trident, Tornado, and type 23 frigates, to raise the issue of disabled persons. It is right that the cases of individuals in the armed services should be mentioned if there is a case to be heard.
This evening I shall observe your injunction, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and speak for no more than 10 minutes. Indeed, I have not prepared myself to speak for longer. We are discussing the Defence Estimates. It is one thing to consider expenditure figures, as we are doing, but another to see that we get value for money.
I spent last week in the Falkland Islands. I was invited, together with other hon. Members from both sides of the House, by the Secretary of State for Defence to see something of what is done by the Falklands defence force. It was a remarkable experience. It was remarkable to see how the three services in the Falklands worked together, completely harmonised and in a state of high readiness, great alertness and war preparedness. None of us could have failed to be impressed by what we saw. We were impressed by the sophistication of the equipment and the skill of those who operate that equipment. There are not many people there—either men nor women—but the quality of those in the defence force is outstanding.
The maintenance of this force is of course expensive, because a modern integrated defence system is expensive. That expense is added to by the 8,000 miles that separates Britain from the Falklands. It is therefore especially expensive to maintain that defence force, but I argue that it could be much more expensive if the force was less sophisticated, less efficient or less well integrated and harmonised.
The cost of defending the Falklands could also be less expensive if we were able to achieve better, more normal relations with Argentina — the potential enemy which lies across the water. Until those better relations are achieved, the cost of defending the Falklands will be a burden — a necessary burden — that will figure in our Defence Estimates.
It can be levelled as a criticism of the islanders that they require such an expensive operation to safeguard their shores, but it is not just to safeguard those islanders. The force is there to safeguard a British independent territory. I hope that we can improve our relations with Argentina and so reduce the tension, the threat and therefore the need to maintain our forces at such a high state of readiness. Equally, Argentina should recognise that the defence of the Falklands is an established fact made necessary by its invasion of the islands four years ago. The Argentine Government and people should also recognise that there is no question of our discussing the sovereignty of the islands. We should talk to them about re-establishing good relations.
I have talked of the military operation in the Falklands, and I wanted its reality, its effectiveness and its necessity to be heard of in this country, where questions are being asked about whether we should spend the money on it. I wanted its reality, effectiveness and necessity to be heard of in the Argentine, where a sense of unreality about the Falklands Islands still persists. I wanted to report my impressions of the armed forces—the men, women and the equipment. In my view they are outstanding and more than a match for the threat that they face.
I believe that we should seek to strive to reduce that threat. I told the Falkland Islanders whom I met—the councillors and members of the Falkland Islands Committee — that in my part of England Kent and Sussex —we once built a series of forts to defend our Channel shores against the threat of invasion by Napoleon. Today those forts — Martello towers — are empty and our relations with France are friendly. The threat has gone. That is an exaggerated example, but it is an example, nevertheless. We are even building a tunnel for even better and closer relations with the French, although it is not improving my relations with the people of Kent.
I wish to make two points about our impressions. One concerns the state of morale of our forces, who are 8.000 miles away from home. The post service is vital, and hat was stressed to us all the time. If it is so much as one day late, morale goes down very fast—the commander told us that. At present, delays are cut to a minimum and it takes about five days for mail to get there. That is accepted as pretty good. There is no delay once the mail gets there, despite the island's size. It is approximately the size of Wales and there are many outposts to which mail must be delivered. The mail service must be kept regular, efficient and fast.
The second matter that I wish to raise is that of Falklands Islands pay. I know that it is called theatre pay and that it is not much liked by the Ministry or by the serving officers. It is not paid for the first four-month tour of duty—that is the tour of duty on the Falklands—but only on the second tour of duty, provided that that second tour occurs within 18 months. If it is so much as one day over that limit, service men or women do not get service Falklands pay. There is a rumble of criticism about it. Some cases of unfairness can be found and some chaps have just missed out by two or three days. This situation needs to be studied by the Ministry, together with service personnel, to see what can be done to relieve that small criticism.
Finally, a little more entertainment would be appreciated by the forces on the Falklands. I was told that videos of the World Cup take seven weeks to get out there. That really is a bit too long. Wives and girlfriends can and have illegally taped those matches, even between England and Argentina, and have got them out there to their service husbands or boyfriends. If they can do that, the Ministry of Defence could probably get them out there more efficiently.
Sir Harry Secombe has been to the Falklands and was much appreciated. The type of entertainment that is required is what I would call a night club type of entertainment—[Interruptioni] When I was there it was pretty well night all the time— that is, when it was not blowing a force 11 gale. Perhaps another description, to please hon. Members, would be a northern club type of entertainment. It needs someone who can work a club in an intimate style, because that is the only space that there is to work.
Those are my impressions—impressions involving a little politics and a lot of praise.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch). Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I shall make some reference to the Royal Navy, in particular, to the 50-ship navy, or, as we now call it, the "about 50-ship navy," more or less. Less, we all suspect.
As the House knows, four shipyards are tendering for the future type 23s. With the considerable economies of scale that accrue to the Ministry of Defence in placing more than one order with the same yard, it is obvious that someone would be disappointed. It is equally obvious that Members of Parliament, such as myself, with substantial constituency interests in the shipbuilding industry, will fight hard to ensure that there is fair play in these matters.
I want to raise two issues in that context, the first relating to lead yard status, and the second to the auxiliary oiler replenishment vessel order. It is possible, although I do not think it is intended by the Government, that current Ministry of Defence procurement policies could effectively prevent follow-on builders from bidding successfully against the first of class lead shipbuilder.
The lead shipbuilder holds a monopoly over the supply of information relating to the follow-on ship. If that monopoly position is not adequately controlled by the Ministry of Defence, it can be exploited effectively to drive follow-on yards out of the market, resulting in lead builders having a monopoly on construction as well.
What is being done to ensure that follow-on yards can compete on a fair and equitable basis with the lead builder? That is particularly important because, in the case of the type 23 frigate, the single role minehunter and all submarines, the lead builder has won the first of class contracts with no competition at all. All that will make complete nonsense of the principle of second source bidding which is already so much a feature of the Pentagon's procurement policy and which is the direction in which the Government claim to be moving.
The other point that I want to make is about fair play. The whole of Tyneside feels cheated over the placement of the AOR at Harland and Wolff. Those who believe that there has been foul play—time, of course, will tell—will find further evidence in something that I discovered this weekend.
Reading the second report of the Select Committee on Defence as a background document for this debate, I picked up the evidence to the Committee given by Mr. Levene, whose role in defence procurement is, of course, substantial. Mr. Levene has seriously misled the Committee over the AOR 2. In the course of so doing he has raised an important new doubt over the placement of the AOR 1. I find it hard to understand how that misleading of the Committee could have been accidental.
On 15 May at question 402 of the Select Committee's report, Mr. Levene, when questioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas), who is present today, said:
As I understand it, Chairman — because this is an answer to questions when the Secretary of State made the announcement — Swans can make a bid for the second AOR and have 'a preferential position', but they have to meet *** million?
The asterisk means that the figure is stated, but not printed. Mr. Levene confirmed:"*** million." That is, he gave a definite figure to the Select Committee.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert), to make sure that the position was clear and could not be open to any misunderstanding, asked:
Do they know what they have to meet?
Mr. Levene said "Yes." The truthful answer would have been no. It is as straightforward as that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East went on to ask:
What was their reaction on that?
Mr. Levene replied:
They are still considering it.
That is completely untrue. Swan Hunter has nothing to consider. Yet Mr. Levene left the Select Committee with the impression that Swan Hunter was considering its response to a definite price. I was assured by the managing director of Swan Hunter, when I put the point to him over the weekend, that that is not the case at all. There is nothing to consider.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West at question 404, asked:
They have the advantage now that they did not have before, of knowing an exact price they have to meet, and being able to acquire, I think, either through Harlands or through
Yarrows, the design capability or the design drawings—may be not the detailed design drawings, but certainly the major design drawings?
Mr. Levene said, "That is quite right." An honest answer to that question would have been, "That is wholly wrong." It is not a fact that Swan Hunter has the advantage of knowing the exact price to meet. It does not have that knowledge. Swan Hunter does not have the major designs for the AOR 1, and it certainly does not have the detailed designs that a shipbuilder would need to make a costed bid.
That is a serious misleading of the Select Committee. It goes to the heart of Swan Hunter's ability to compete for the AOR 2 and in turn goes to the very heart of Swan Hunter surving at all. I, and my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Brown), who is present today, know what effect that would have on employment in Tyneside.
Serious questions are raised. Where are the drawings? I am talking not about the detailed design drawings, but the major design drawings. Why are they not available to Swan Hunter, as Mr. Levene says, quite wrongly, that they are? That leads one to ask: are they not ready? One is entitled to ask: who has seen them? How could Ministers tell the house, and, incidentally, let the Prime Minister say from the Dispatch Box, that Harland and Wolff's design was preferred if that design was not even ready? Even more serious is the doubt that all this places over Harland and Wolff's bid for the AOR 1, a bid that was only marginally below Swan Hunter's. Without finished designs that bid could not have been properly costed, only priced.
Is the wretched truth about this matter that Harland and Wolff, with the connivance of the Northern Ireland Office, has taken a gamble on the lead vessel — a dangerous gamble that will do no good for Northern Ireland or the Royal Navy, and which has, of course, already led to major redundancies on Tyneside? How could the Government let that happen, and why?
The issue will not go away. The AOR placement may yet turn out to be a bigger scandal than the Westland affair.
I share the real concern expressed by the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) about the application of section 10, especially in peacetime. Section 10 unfairly discriminates against service employees of the Government in a way that would not apply to civilian employees. It is inappropriate that that should be used in peacetime to deny service personnel, or their dependants in the case of fatalities, the benefits and remuneration to which they would be entitled were they civilians.
The Government have a proud record in defence, with a 20 per cent. increase in defence expenditure in real terms to their credit. By shifting the balance even more in favour of defence equipment, they are getting as much as they possibly could out of existing defence resources. It is only fair to point out that under the Government—although one would not know it from the statements made by Labour Members—health, social security and education have all done significantly better than defence. But we must view with anxiety the decision to cut defence expenditure by 4·5 per cent. during the next three years. That is being done, as the Secretary of State conceded, not in response to any slackening of the pace of the Soviet military build-up, which continues to outbuild Britain's entire order of battle in terms of Navy, Army, Air Force and strategic weapons by four times each year, but rather in consequence of Treasury pressure. That inevitably means cuts in the defence equipment programme at a time when industry and the economy badly need such orders.
The Royal Navy's frigate programme has already slipped badly. The Royal Air Force's Tornado GRI reconnaissance programme has now slipped to the right, and part of the Harrier GR5 order has been lost. The Army's LAW mine programme has been shelved and war stocks, while inevitably clouded in a smokescreen of mystery, are clearly being run down. Those are serious matters which will lead to greater pressure for the scrapping of the Trident missile. Trident remains the most potent and cost-effective system of Polaris replacement available. The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) knows that, although for professional reasons, as a party leader, he cannot be caught publicly jumping into the Prime Minister's clothes. He knows that the European missile which he proposes will be more expensive and less effective, with an unacceptable time scale.
The resources that are earmarked for the procurement of Trident could provide approximately one armoured division in addition to the four that we have in Germany. In the face of more than 200 Soviet divisions, that is hardly likely to be a factor calculated to have a deterrent effect on the Soviet Union, by comparison with Trident whose potency would be enormous. Even its opponents are prepared to concede that.
I have a high regard for the United States Administration and the remarkable steps that they have taken in recent years to strengthen the Western defence. But talk of scrapping SALT 2 is a grave mistake if the United States still has serious hopes of achieving a strategic arms reduction treaty with the Soviet Union during the coming months. By all means let us spell out clearly the ways in which the Soviets have undoubtedly cheated on some of the arms control agreements, including deploying two new strategic systems when the treaty provides for only one. Let us stick to those agreements until it is clear whether we can achieve a more effective agreement in the present round of negotiations.
Another threat to arms control and to peace comes neither from Mr. Gorbachev nor from Mr. Reagan, but from an unexpected source—the British Labour party. That is why the leader of the Labour party, the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock), has sought to engage the Reagan Administration in what would appear to be a conspiracy of silence. The right hon. Gentleman has sought an undertaking that the lips of United Slates spokesmen will be sealed on the consequences for the future of NATO if Labour's defence policies were implemented. Why is the right hon. Gentleman so unaccustomedly modest about that aspect of Labour policies? What does he have to hide'?
The Leader of the Labour party knows full well that his party's anti-defence and anti-nuclear policies are not only the ones most calculated to appease the Labour Left wing, but most likely to deliver to Moscow the prize for which it has relentlessly striven over the years—the break-up of the NATO Alliance. Nothing is more certain to cause the break-up of NATO than the election of a Labour Government committed not only to abandon the British deterrent but to boot the Americans out of their nuclear bases in Britain. Labour's defence policies trample into the dust the bipartisan basis of British defence policy.
That has guided the two main parties in Britain during the past 40 years, and Labour Governments have patriotically upheld it. It places the British Labour party—no doubt the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) will cheer this — to the left of the Italian and French Communist parties, which respectively support NATO and the nuclear deterrent.
Does the Leader of the Opposition seriously believe that he could dictate to our United States ally with what weapons it is to be allowed the privilege of defending Britain, yet count on it remaining? If he does, he is making a major error of judgment. I suspect that he knows the truth and that he has been told that the present or any future American Administration faced with such a diktat would be most likely to withdraw not only from Britain but from Europe. Anyone who doubts that need only examine the reaction of the British and United States Governments faced with the attempt of the Socialist Government in New Zealand to dictate what categories of warship should be allowed to visit that country. Our categorical answer has been to break off all intended visits by Royal Navy or United States vessels to New Zealand.
I give the right hon. Gentleman credit for being no one's fool. He knows that there is every danger that that would be the American reaction. Is that not why he is so desperate to obtain American vows of secrecy on that subject? He knows that if it became public knowledge that a Labour victory would mean US withdrawal and a consequent end to NATO, which has been the foundation and cornerstone of 40 years of peace in Europe, the British electorate would give him short shrift and he could wave goodbye to any prospect of getting to No. 10.
I urge the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in the Labour party to consider the possibility that on the issue of British nuclear deterrence and United States bases in the United Kingdom, he may be mistaken and that the Governments of Attlee, Wilson and Callaghan were right. It is not too late for Labour to rethink its policy and to come up with a defence policy that will underpin, rather than undermine, peace.
I shall commence with a quotation that explains part of the dilemma that we face in the debate. It is the foreward written by the Secretary of State for Defence to the booklet that we have all been sent. It states:
Within NATO, the United Kingdom's contribution is unique. We are the only country both to contribute strategic nuclear, threatre nuclear and conventional forces to the Alliance and to commit forces to each of the three major NATO Commands.
When one has said that, one has explained the reason for the cuts. We are trying to spread the jam far too thinly.
So far, no one has said anything against frigates and no one has said anything against fighter aircraft. There is almost unanimity in the House on that, although we have not quite agreed on the definition of 50 frigates. We have heard the words "about 50", "maybe" and "could be", but no firm figure. In my day, five times 10 was 50. I am afraid that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement, who is no longer in his place, had some difficulty in agreeing that figure.
I am delighted that we have made progress with the European fighter aircraft. I have no interest to declare either in the aircraft industry or in building frigates. We do not build them in Eccles. However, I share a canal with the hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill).
We have made decisions on the fighter aircraft, but we have done so rather late. This is a theme that I have hammered over the years in the House. In the 1940s we had Spitfires and Hurricanes, but the trouble was we did not have enough of them. My own aircraft, the Mosquito, was coming along quite nicely at the time. With reference to the decision on the new fighter aircraft, we are talking about a date round about 1995. However, I have no doubt that the House and the country will accept that the country needs fighter aircraft and frigates.
Everyone has paid tribute to the Tornado. No doubt it is a superb aircraft, but if we are to have the aircraft in sufficient numbers, we must look very carefully at orders from Saudi Arabia and Oman for this aircraft. We have the prize problem of reconciling the balance of payments with supplying an excellent aircraft to the Royal Air Force.
The Ministry has a great reputation for being dilatory —I would almost go so far as to say indolent—with regard to the Lysander. I said "Lysander", because I was going to refer to Westland. In my old days, Westland built the Lysander. I did not realise that Westland built helicopters until I came to the House. However, decisions have not been made with regard to helicopters, which could be a disaster for the British helicopter industry and could put an extremely good Rolls-Royce component engine, the RTM 322, at risk. The Minister should pay close attention to that.
When a decision is finalised on an engine for the European fighter, we should take into account the fact that an aircraft has three elements — the airframe, avionics and the power plant. We are quite capable of building the power plant in this country, and Rolls-Royce must certainly have a part to play. I am concerned with preserving British technology and British jobs. The ordering programme is important in maintaining British technology at top level and in preserving British technology in this country.
I am worried about the SDI programme. It seems attractive, and it seems to offer employment prospects, but what worries me is that the Americans will pick up that at which we are best.
They will pick up that at which we are superb. They will seem to pay an attractive price, but if what they are buying is intelligence and knowledge, it may turn out that they have bought it very cheaply.
In 1944, towards the end of the war, I was using what was probably the most advanced airborne avionics in the world at that time — the mark 10 air interceptor equipment. We had a tremendous lead at that time, but somehow or other that lead was lost and that know-how went to another country. We should try, to the best of our ability, to preserve leads in that field.
The Minister should not be too worried about the fact that the Americans refer to the financing of the airbus and say that they do not do things like that. Last month, in the presence of the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), I saw the new engine for the Boeing 7J7, which is to be a prop jet, fitted to a Boeing 727, starboard side. This is the new generation engine. The letters NASA, in big print, spell National Aeronautics and Space Administration to me. No one will convince me that NASA is an example of private enterprise. It is not. If there is ever a chance to put defence money into British research, the Minister should do so willingly and openly.
The horizontal take-off and landing launcher —HOTOL —is supposed eventually to take us to Australia in 45 minutes. I cannot think of anyone who would wish to get there that quickly.
No, Mr. Murdoch now lives in America. I do not think that it is designed to fly to America yet.
HOTOL has a use because of its low-level orbit, which might make it suitable for searching and scanning the sky. Logically, that brings me to the plea advanced by the leader of the SDP. For reasons that I can understand, he was not in agreement with the spokesman for the Liberal party. Last night the right hon. Gentleman pushed the concept of the cruise missile. There is no doubt that with low-level fast approach work one can often avoid the radar of the opposing country. Ground returns were always a problem for radar from 1940 onwards. The right hon. Gentleman talked in terms of cruise becoming supersonic. Let us remember the troubles associated with Nimrod, GEC and the early warning system. I am trying to think of the avionic complications of keeping cruise at supersonic speeds at about 50 ft above the ground. To use an old cliché, cruise is a "shoot yourself in the foot" weapon. It is an own-goal weapon. If own-goal weapons have nuclear warheads, they can be devastating not only to enemies, but to one's friends and indeed to oneself. In my view, cruise is a non-starter.
I hope the Minister will acknowledge that the country is prepared to accept frigates, fighters and the conventional weapons that we need. In the other place, Lord Hill-Norton said:
First, I congratulate the Ministers, the editors and the authors on an extremely well-presented, well-written and generally informative document.
The noble Lord qualified his praise. He said "generally".
I crave your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for another two sentences.
It has been criticised in some knowledgeable quarters as being a bit glib, and so I suppose it is in the sense that most of the really difficult problems before the Government in the defence ministry are glossed over a bit easily".—[Official Report, House of Lords, 24 June 1986, Vol. 477, c. 302.]
Yesterday, we listened to a remarkable speech from the Secretary of State. It was all about money and the theme of the speech was that the party was over. Since 1979, the Government have spent one third more in real terms on defence, but certain decisions have been taken which add up to the end of this particular party.
The 3 per cent. increase in real terms is to be no more and, more important, it appears that over the next three years we shall be £800 million short in the defence budget. What are the implications of so remarkable and frank announcement by the Secretary of State? Clearly, between now and the general election, the Secretary of State must postpone much, cancel a little, shuffle his cards where necessary, and go in for fudge. The only pleasure that he might derive in the next 18 months is that he may have a little fun at the expense of the Opposition parties.
What then is the choice that faces the simple elector when it comes to defence? It appears that the Labour party will abandon our nuclear weapons but stay within NATO. It will do so, despite the growth of American nationalism and the growth on this side of the Atlantic of anti-Americanism. It is arguable that by ridding ourselves of our nuclear weapons, at least Britain and Europe would become more dependent than ever before on the strategic nuclear guarantee of the United States.
A further factor relates to the United States air force bases in the United Kingdom. They and their nuclear weapons are to be given notice to quit. Presumably, that would be a matter for negotiation, but it could not fail to aggravate to some extent Anglo-American relations and, at the same time, put a big question mark over NATO strategy which as every defence expert knows, still depends on the first use of allied nuclear weapons against a Soviet conventional strike. For the Labour party to appear to be anti-American and to move the country into an ex-nuclear status would perhaps achieve the worst of both worlds.
The SDP-Liberal alliance speaks not with one voice but with two. Clearly, the SDP wants a successor system to Polaris and the Libs want out of the nuclear business. So my simple elector will presumably go to the two conferences at Harrogate and Eastbourne in September this year in search of a compromise of sorts. But a compromise between virginity and virility is hard to achieve. On balance, I suspect that the elector will be disappointed. It could be that the SDP would keep the rockets while the Liberals would fill the warheads with muesli.
Before the chairman of our great party rushes into print to rubbish his enemies, let him beware. What do we offer? The same package as before? More conventional weapons? A larger nuclear capability in the Trident programme? The truth is that were we to be re-elected, we could not afford to purchase a three-piece suit of such quality. We would have to cut our cloth. Is there anybody who can deny that the first duty of the new Conservative Secretary of State, given our re-election, is to set in course the most fundamental of fundamental defence reviews?
What would have to give under the circumstances? Would it be the Trident programme? I suspect that we would be too far down the road to make any appreciable savings under those circumstances. Would the argument so beloved by editors of The Times, that the Rhine Array be withdrawn and brought back to Aldershot to save money, become more attractive in 18 months' time? Would the Royal Air Force be further reduced in number and a question mark placed over the European fighter aircraft? Or does the next Conservative Government look to the spirit of Sir John Nott to shrink the surface fleet? This is where we all came in in 1982.
We must expect no help from the Soviet Union because I think that we shall enter into a long period of calm and tranquillity in foreign affairs. We all have our ideas about what should happen eventually when we have a fundamental defence review because the implications for defence and foreign policy are remarkably important. But we shall not find out until 365 days after polling day.
In conclusion, the Labour party would save some money at the expense of the NATO Alliance. The SDP-Liberal alliance has not yet got its act together. We in the Conservative party will discuss all aspects of defence between now and the general election except for the aspects of defence that really matter. You pays your money and you takes your choice.
It is always interesting to hear the analysis of the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley), who is an interesting commentator. I suspect that not only he but others have been rehearsing the speeches that they make during the general election campaign. I hope I shall be forgiven for turning to a matter which the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) suggested was amiss, a local issue which affects my constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown)—the Rosyth dockyard.
I shall not follow the Minister in talking about the contractual relationships which may be pursued at present with those who may be bidding for the Rosyth and or Devonport dockyards. What details of information are likely to be forthcoming to my constituents, who are worried about the proposed development of the Rosyth base to facilitate the twin dock for nuclear submarines in the not-too-distant future? My constituents, especially those at Limekilns and Rosyth, need reassurances because they are likely to be faced with two nuclear-powered submarines of a different type and of a different dimension in terms of pressurised water reactor. They need specific assurances about the safety precautions that are likely to be taken should something go amiss with those boats.
The Secretary of State said that he would be fairly forthcoming to my constituents, and they have already had some meetings in the area. I hope that I can press the Minister to be even more forthcoming. While I accept that it is unlikely that the development of nuclear refitting facilities can take place anywhere other than at the Rosyth dockyard, my constituents need their fears allayed.
One aspect of the Dockyard Services Bill causes me anxiety. We should be able to assure many of the young people who are serving their apprenticeship in the dockyard that they should be able to complete their apprenticeship without fear of dismissal when it is completed. I press the Minister on that point, because it is extremely unfair to cry out for additional skills in Scotland and elsewhere, and simultaneously see those skills eroded and put on the scrap heap at the end of the apprenticeship period.
We have heard a lot of talk about frigates and frigate orders. The revelations by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) must be answered, and I hope I have the Minister's attention about this. They are revelations in relation to the searching questions that I put during the examination of Mr. Levene, who was not evasive. He gave answers that seem to be contradicted by the views put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East.
The House would appreciate some answers about the ordering of frigates. Many hon. Members have put that point and the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) pressed his Government to take a decision. The orders are likely to be announced within a few weeks and I hope that they will be announced in the House and not as part of a written answer, so that we can question the background and the views put to the Minister. We cannot get information about the numbers, far less about the yards that are likely to receive these orders.
In his speech yesterday the Secretary of State used a phrase which suggested that his defence policy ought to be one of stability and continuity. That is not the case in terms of Secretaries of State because we have seen the managerial man, the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) succeeded by the perjink politician, the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger). He is a subtle and smooth politician and is likely to evade the decisions that the hon. Member for Aldershot pressed him to consider, albeit in the future.
I do not agree with the view that we should consider all four options. Something has to go, and if the Government were wise they would get rid of Trident. I put the following point to hon. Members who might challenge me on that. I cannot conceive of any situation in which British so-called independent nuclear deterrent, which is presently Polaris, or the French so-called independent nuclear deterrent could be used without the support and the agreement of the Americans. These deterrents add nothing to the NATO Alliance.
In the Defence Estimates there are some sleights of hand about making the necessary savings. In the Estimates, the Secretary of State looks at European collaboration, which of course is attractive until one examines it in detail. We admire the work undertaken by the right hon. Member for Henley in upgrading the growth of the independent European programme. But if we examine the shining light of European collaboration, the Tornado, it will be seen that it was a costly project and did not necessarily bring outstanding benefits in cost savings to the United Kingdom. That is not the way out. Modern defence equipment is capital intensive and extremely costly, especially in research and development.
Finally, I should like to turn to the important matter of the strategic defence initiative. The Defence Estimates show a high proportion of expenditure on research and development. I have consistently argued that that is too high a proportion of our total research and development programme locked up in defence.
In the Select Committee we examined the Government Chief Scientist. He clearly indicated that the Americans are not interested in us because they love our bonnie blue or brown eyes, but that they are interested in the high quality of our research and development, and especially that which has been undertaken by many of our scientific institutions. The Chairman of the Select Committee, the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins) was quite right when he said that, if we did not collaborate, much of our intellectual manpower, if I can put it that way, could easily be bid away. That is a distortion of our effort that damages our industrial base. We ought not to be sanguine about the way in which the Americans have trawled our research institutions and universities in order to bribe people away for the strategic defence initiative which, however one describes it, is extremely dubious in terms of total defence.
President Reagan in a speech in March 1983 took a certain view about how he could overcome difficulties that faced him about defending the United States. We ought to be careful about this type of collaboration. This is an interesting debate, and in his reply the Minister of State should give us certain assurances about naval orders that are important for the people of Scotland and especially for the people of Clydeside.
Within the next two or three years there will have to be a major re-examination of the size of Britain's military commitments. Some short-term economies and the momentum built up over the last six years of spending growth may mean that awkward decisions can be postponed, but shortly we shall have to consider the priority attached to each commitment and decide whether the United Kingdom can continue to afford them all.
Personnel costs, if anything, are likely to rise. Consequently, it is the equipment budget that is likely to suffer the biggest reductions in funding and on one view this will fall by around 10 per cent. in real terms by 1988–89. Those who feel that a cancellation of Trident would provide the answer and ease the pressure on conventional weapons expenditure, need to be disabused. Certainly, if a Conservative Government cancelled Trident no doubt the saving would remain within the defence budget, although we would have lost one of the most significant elements in deterrence — namely, a second centre of decision making in Europe with a credible nuclear deterrent.
Although all the major Opposition parties are united in a commitment to abandon Trident, an SDP-dominated Government would have to use most, if not all, the savings from Trident in order to pay for an alternative replacement for Polaris, and it has become quite clear that a Labour or Liberal-dominated Government would channel any savings into other areas of Government expenditure and not into defence equipment. As it is unlikely that a Conservative Government will cancel Trident, the squeeze is on defence equipment, whether Trident is cancelled in the future or not.
We should remember that the United Kingdom wins wars because of the spirit and efficiency of British service personnel. We in Parliament have a duty to provide them with the best reasonably obtainable equipment. Financial consideration may mean that such equipment has to be increasingly multi-purpose rather than dedicated to specific tasks unless we are to curtail dramatically the various theatres in which we expect our service men to operate. That is why the Prime Minister is to be congratulated on looking again at the Royal Navy's decision for the new frigate. I appreciate that the type 23 was designed specifically to carry out highly specialised anti-submarine warfare in the eastern Atlantic. There could be no better ship than the type 23 for this purpose, but if a more general purpose vessel were to be considered, then the S90, the short fat hull, should merit greater attention. The S90 is cheaper and has greater natural stability than the long slim hull of the type 23 as well as providing a better weapons platform and a larger radar horizon.
The marine technology board of the Defence Scientific Advisory Council conducted trials of the two types and concluded that the S90 design failed to reach Ministry of Defence standards. It is uncertain by how much the standards were not reached and whether such shortcomings could be remedied fairly easily. If we are to maintain an adequate size of surface fleet at a cheaper cost then a multipurpose S90 frigate may well be the next generation that we should be looking towards after the type 23. We should build a prototype S90 so that it can be properly evaluated.
The greatest flexibility that we have and the element which we should ensure remains both credible and able to operate in a variety of different situations is our amphibious force. It is the only fully flexible aggressive force that we have that can be deployed out of, as well as within, the NATO area. It has the freedom to advance, withdraw, concentrate or disperse without violating frontiers or abandoning ground.
There are many circumstances in which such forces could be necessary other than in wartime. Top of the list comes the rescue or evacuation of one's own friendly nationals from a threat in a foreign country. I can attest to the efficiency of our amphibious forces in achieving that objective, having just come from serving on a large NATO naval exercise off the north coast of Scotland, which is continuing without my presence, in which that was practised. Secondly, there may be an invitation from a country with which a treaty commitment or similar agreement exists, such as Belize. There is the need to maintain freedom of passage through international waters when such freedom is threatened. Thirdly, there may be a threat to the security of access to vital raw materials.
The principal role of our amphibious forces within NATO will remain the defence of the northern flank. Equipment and capabilities must be provided with that in mind. That is against a background of the Soviet Union's growing use of amphibious forces which, by the 1990s, may be able to land in divisional strength to seize airfields in north Norway and perhaps in corps strength on the Baltic coasts with some 400 close air support aircraft.
Our amphibious forces must not only be well protected in their passage to Norway with ships that are properly designed for damage control but continue to have the ability to insert and withdraw forces by sea which the terrain of northern Norway makes impossible by land. We could expect the five air heads in northern Norway to be rendered inoperative by enemy action. In any event, an airlift would be impracticable as it would require 500 C130 Hercules loads and extend over several days with heavy equipment having to follow by sea. Only an amphibious force properly equipped and with dedicated transport can maintain complete independence and flexibility of operation.
To fulfil those many tasks, the decision must be taken now to replace or renovate Fearless and Intrepid, as well as the landing ships logistic, which will come to the end of their useful life in the mid-1990s. There is unanimity among service chiefs about the need for that. I know that matters are well advanced, but I hope that the two replacements will maintain the same credibility by having extensive damage control facility and the doubling up of systems to ensure their survivability. I hope that Fearless and Intrepid will not necessarily be mothballed, but, taking a leaf out of the book of practice of the United States and the Soviet Union, will be renovated and their lives extended as far as practicably possible within existing hulls.
Beyond that, the most pressing need is a lift capability. Since the demise of the Commando ship, such as Bulwark, on which I had the privilege to serve, we have no dedicated large deck for multi-slot helicopter operations. On Bulwark in 1976 in the West Indies I was able to observe a Commando embarked for three months with a helicopter squadron with the ability to lift the whole Commando and its supporting arms to a deployment within two hours.
We need to carry at least two thirds of the amphibious forces in specialised ships which should also be able to transport and operate the helicopters and landing craft needed for ship-to-ship movement and subsequent resupply. We cannot afford the expensive and dangerous practice of cross-decking troops, equipment and vehicles to match them to the means of getting them ashore. There are obvious advantages in the force being able to deploy to the objective area already grouped together so that training, briefing and rehearsals can be conducted together.
In the view of Lieutenant-General Sir Steuart Pringle, the lesson of the Falklands was not that commercial ships can do the task but that without a corps of specialist ships, it could not have been embarked upon. We should have sufficient helicopters on specialised Commando shipping to be able to launch a simultaneous lift of two company groups—some 300 men with their associated equipment and support weapons — which means 24 Sea King equivalents. To deliver that number of aircraft simultaneously, a total of at least 12 operating spots is needed. For our amphibious forces to retain credibility and the ability to fulfil their multi-purpose role, we must ensure that we have at least one Commando carrier with the requisite number of helicopters.
It is reported that senior Royal Navy and Royal Marine staff officers have pressed for converted transports called aviation support ships since 1984. We now have no Commando carrier. I understand that the Government are giving serious thought to appointing British Aerospace Ship Systems as the prime contractor for conversion of the ro-ro merchant ship Contender Argent into a Hermes replacement for £100 million.
It is reported that Mr. John Thornton, the sales manager, told a conference that his company had completed a study for a more comprehensive conversion which would make it even more capable than the carrier Invincible with at least 12 Sea Harriers and the facilities to support 12 helicopters, six operating simultaneously, as well as a complete Commando as embarked force.
Those ships would have to be protected adequately. Understandably, there is genuine doubt about the ability of converted merchant vessels to withstand battle damage, as was demonstrated by the loss of the Atlantic Conveyor in the Falklands. We cannot afford to give our amphibious forces second best. They will bear the brunt of any conflict outside general war, as has been demonstrated by the only conflict in which this country has been involved in my
memory. Such a programme should cost no more than £600 million. It is a small price to pay for what was described by Liddell Hart:
amphibious flexibility is the greatest strategic asset that a sea-based power possesses. It creates a distraction to a continental enemy's concentration that is most advantageously disproportionate to the resources employed.
For our future security, the Government must take the correct decision. Many people will scrutinise it most carefully.
Any organisation that is accused of racial discrimination tends to answer by saying, "We do not discriminate. We treat all people equally." When that organisation is then asked for the evidence that it does not discriminate, the organisation tends to say, "We do not need to monitor or collect evidence because it is our policy not to discriminate." That is precisely how the armed services, especially the Army, have responded to the well-documented evidence that racial discrimination takes place in the British Army. That discrimination takes place in recruitment and promotion for those who join.
In inner-city areas, both in north America and now in Britain, joining the Army has been the way in which disadvantaged young men and women, especially men, from ethnic minorities have found their way to getting jobs, further training and opportunities. If the Army does not provide equality of opportunity for people in that position, the Army is that much the poorer for it. Indeed, the country must be concerned that one important area of job opportunity directly under public control discriminates in a society where discrimination should not take place.
The discrimination varies from regiment to regiment. Some regiments appear not to take any black or Asian people at all. Other regiments appear to set quotas to keep numbers down. Other regiments have an open-door policy and attract young men of Afro-Caribbean or Asian origin. For some time, perhaps not today, the physical training corps did not take black people. For some time, perhaps not today, the military police did not take black people.
More importantly—it is still true—it is the regiments concerned with ceremonial duties which seem to have set their backs on having black people among their numbers. One only had to watch the Trooping of the Colour to see that not a single black face was present. The discrimination appears to apply to the Guards Regiment, the Life Guards and the Household Cavalry —ceremonial regiments which deal especially with duties outside Buckingham Palace and elsewhere when the royal family are present. That is of double concern because the Queen is head of a multiracial Commonwealth. It has been reported that the Prince of Wales expressed concern about the events and the features which I have described.
The Army says, "There is a traditional policy of recruitment. We tend to take people whose fathers served in regiments." That is bound to be disciminatory. In any area of employment in a society which is as multiracial as Britain's, the policy of giving people job opportunities only because their fathers had jobs there is bound to be discriminatory.
I do not refer just to recruitment. I refer also to the conditions within certain regiments and the opportunities for promotion. Life in the Army is tough. Nobody denies that. The Army is not for squeamish people. New recruits suffer abuse. They suffer what I would call a certain amount of aggro. I am satisfied — I have spoken to black people who have served in the Army—that, over and beyond the normal toughness and rugged approach, especially towards new recruits, life is much tougher for black people in the Army than for white people. It is unnecessarily harsh because they suffer racial abuse and sometimes physical violence.
It is clear that the chances of promotion for black people are significantly less than for white people. The other day, in the Palace of Westminster I met one of my constituents who had served for 12 years in the Army. He had tried to become a lance-corporal. He reached that stage but then, as he said, he was "busted". He is a man of great intelligence, skill and aptitude and I am certain from what he said that he was a good—indeed, a first-class — soldier. Nevertheless, he got nowhere. It may interest the House to know that he has set up his own business and is now the managing director of a successful company. The Army thought that he was not good enough even to have one stripe.
There are a couple of black colonels in the Army—in, I believe, the medical corps and dental corps respectively—but how many black officers are there in the ordinary Army regiments? Perhaps one, perhaps none. Yes, at Sandhurst many black people are officer cadets, but they are all receiving training for the services in overseas countries, not for the British Army.
It need not be like that. I am not saying that everything about the American army is wonderful. I am old enough to remember when the American army came to this country in 1942. It had all-black regiments with white officers, and the only black officers were padres. The American army has changed. Recently, I saw a book on the future for black people in the American army which contained pages of photographs of one, two, three and four-star generals. I am told that at a recent gathering in New York there were 76 black generals and admirals. The American army has demonstrated that, without discriminating, it can still be effective. I criticise it in other respects but in this there are lessons to be learned from it.
This issue is a challenge. We cannot allow this discrimination to continue. It is bad for the Army and for the country. We need a clear statement of policy from the Minister that discrimination should not take place in the Army, in terms of recruitment or promotion, and that it should not take place in any regiment or any aspect of the British armed services. The Government's policy must be that discrimination should not and will not take place.
The Government should at last start monitoring—this has been under consideration for some time —applications for jobs and promotions in the armed services to ascertain whether racial discrimination, which should be done away with, continues to take place. Unless we monitor this process, and know exactly what is happening, there is still the possibility that discrimination will take place somewhere along the line. If the Army is all-white, most, if not all, promotion decisions will be made by white men. There is always a tendency, even if one does not discriminate deliberately, to select for jobs people in one's own image. In a country in which most decent jobs are decided by white interviewers, it is not surprising that most of the best jobs go to white men. The Army must be careful. Monitoring is one sanction which must apply.
It is necessary to give better advice to recruiting officers. Of course, young black men whose families have no tradition of service in the British Army will not know how best to apply and to proceed with an army career. It is up to the recruiting officers to give better advice and encouragement to those who apply.
If we do not get rid of discrimination in the armed forces, young black men will no longer apply to join. The Army will be the worse for that and it will block yet another avenue of job opportunity and career development for black people in our inner cities. Heaven knows, there are too few such avenues open to them. It is vital that, in a country which is supposed to believe that racial discrimination does not take place, we demonstrate in the very service that is under public control that such discrimination does not exist. This is a challenge to the Government, and I hope that they rise to it.
I must be brief, and I therefore apologise to those hon. Members who have made interesting points if I cannot take them up, but I want to deal with a problem of vital interest to many of my constituents who work at the royal ordnance factory at Barnbow in building the Challenger tank.
Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Secretary of Slate spoke about the orders placed last year for Challenger and about the increase in competition in procurement generally. I want to put both statements in the context of my right hon. Friend's statement two weeks ago on the review of the privatisation of Royal Ordnance plc and his withholding of the further order for the 7th Regiment: of Challenger tanks from R0F Barnbow.
I am an enthusiast for the privatisation of industrial operations. There are many reasons, but the main one is that those companies do better in the private sector for all concerned with them. The spectacular success record of those companies which have been privatised speaks for itself. The privatisation which has been achieved so far has involved either employee buy-outs or flotation, with employees taking up shares in their own companies. That is a vital ingredient in success.
Royal Ordnance plc had my full support during the passage of the enabling Bill, primarily because of the assurances by the then Secretary of State that privatisation would be by way of flotation of the group as a whole. In my view, and in the view of those who are familiar with Royal Ordnance plc, that group will be well suited to prosper in the private sector, because it is a strong, integrated group with many unique skills and resources.
Royal Ordnance plc went well down the route to flotation, when there was a public intervention by Vickers in the order for the 7th Regiment of Challenger. I do not blame Vickers for doing what would come naturally to anyone in competition, but the action of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in appearing to respond to that intervention by withholding the order that he was about to place and by announcing a review of future arrangements for the flotation of Royal Ordnance plc has caused widespread concern, especially in Leeds.
I fully accept that it may be that the timetable for flotation is too tight. Many uniquely complicated factors are involved in the flotation and it is important that they are put right before the company is placed on the market. If my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will soon announce a new timetable for the flotation as planned in form and content, I shall have no complaint. However, I shall point to the several years of indecision and doubt which the employees have faced as a good example of why they would he better off in the private sector than under public control. But if the rumours of a planned break-up of the royal ordnance factories and the sale of ROF Barnbow to Vickers proves to be justified, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will have a fight on his hands.
In my view and, I believe, that of many, asset stripping is not an acceptable form of privatisation. The only basis on which Vickers would be interested in Barnbow would be in closing it down, removing its specialist plant and tooling and finishing off its only United Kingdom competitor for tanks. That would not increase the competition to which my right hon. Friend so proudly refers in the White Paper. The sale of Barnbow to Vickers wold be contrary to any sensible competition policy. Indeed, it would go much further than that, because it would cast a blight on the Government's good intentions on future privatisation proposals.
Royal Ordnance plc is a well-integrated group with much cross-supplying between its component companies. Almost all the companies in the group contribute to Challenger or to its ammunition and spares. It is the total package that is critical in the commercial context. The carve-up of Barnbow would only foreshadow the break-up of the group as whole and I for one would fight that every inch of the way.
This leads me to the order for the 7th Regiment, which is vital to Barnbow's survival. As I understand it, the pen of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was hovering over the paper of the contract for signature when he drew back. We need to know whether the order is being cut or postponed, and whether it will be placed in the near future. If it is to be placed, it should be borne in mind that Barnbow is already tooled up, has already made some 300 Challenger tanks and has wide experience in manufacturing them, whereas Vickers is neither tooled up nor has any experience in making them.
Vickers is still in the tank business today only because of the injection of regional aid by the Government into the north-east. Many of us believe that it is vital that regional aid must not become a cloak for job stealing from areas which need the jobs they already have.
Given those facts, there is no way in which Vickers could undercut Barnbow for the Challenger unless it is given an edge in addition to the regional aid it has already received, such as extra funds for tooling and setting up. Where would be the saving to the Government in that? In any event, the Select Committee has shown in its report how difficult it is to quantify savings from competition, especially with complex products with long lead times.
Why the hesitancy in placing the order with Barnbow as was intended? The very fact of delay is costing jobs in Barnbow and is making it more difficult for the group to find orders overseas because of the fear that there will be a lack of continuity in what the group can supply. Why cause further doubts and anxieties on top of those that have been caused by the delays of the past two years? Why put at risk the future of the best tank in the world by breaking up the team that make it?
When the Bill to set up Royal Ordnance plc went through the House, the then Secretary of State gave assurances that, after examining all the facts, the group would be floated as a whole. Today, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has shown excellent judgment in announcing the retention of the clothing and textile depot in Leeds instead of moving it, as was originally proposed, to Glasgow. I said in an intervention that the moving of jobs from one area to another made no economic sense. I am glad that the Under-Secretary showed such good judgment in that respect.
I am now asking my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to show similar good judgment in confirming quickly a new programme and timetable for the flotation of Royal Ordnance plc in its present form and for a quick decision on the order for the 7th Regiment of the Challenger tank.
Royal Ordnance plc as a group can be a strong and vital force in the private sector defence industry if we give it its chance, and if we give a chance to those who work in it to prove what they can do.
The hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) has posed some pertinent questions about the future of the Royal Ordnance factory in which many of his constituents work and future orders for the Challenger tank.
I also immediately associate myself with the plea made by the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) for the repeal of section 10 of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947 in respect of non-combatant service personnel. The right hon. Gentleman raised many points and I look forward to the Minister's response to them.
The theme running through many of the speeches this evening and yesterday was the budgetary crisis which the Secretary of State faces as he tries to match a declining level of resources in real terms with our defence needs and commitments. I make no apology for returning to that theme.
The "Statement on the Defence Estimates" admits that some difficult decisions will have to be taken, which is at least some movement and a more realistic assessment of the situation than that adopted by the Secretary of State's predecessor. However, I am still not convinced that the present Secretary of State or his Ministers have fully appreciated the scale of the problem—not least, in the reduction of the non-Trident equipment budget. If they have appreciated it, they are certainly not admitting to it.
In his reply last night, the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman), admitted what everyone has known all along — that as a result of expenditure on Trident, which will be reaching its peak in the next few years, spending on non-Trident equipment will decrease. However, he omitted to quantify that decrease. Perhaps when the Minister replies this evening he will put some figures on that. He may also wish to comment on the accuracy of the calculations contained in a paper prepared by the Defence Information Group which, having made assumptions about spending on spares, repairs, and maintenance, estimates that spending on non-Trident new equipment will fall from £4·6 billion in 1984·85 to £3·5 billion in 1988–89. That is a reduction of 24 per cent. in real terms. If that is the scale of the cut, difficult decisions will indeed have to be made.
Last night the Minister, and this afternoon the Under-Secretary, tried to put in a plea of mitigation by assuring us that the cuts in expenditure would not really be cuts at all and that it was all a question of getting value for money. Few would dispute that there has been a strong argument over recent years that the Ministry of Defence should take tighter control over defence contracts. However, it is naive to believe that greater efficiency in procurement, competition policy, or even joint procurement projects with our European allies, however admirable and desirable, will make up the shortfall as a result of declining defence expenditure.
IF time had permitted I would have said a few more words about competition policy. The only point I would make is that taking competition policy perhaps too far could result in a number of companies and shipyards no longer being viable, as for example was mentioned by the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr. Brown) when he questioned the future of the Swan Hunter yard. We might then find that no other shipyards were available to provide competition. If we reach that position, then the whole point of any competitive tendering policy could well be lost.
It has been quite obvious, not only from this debate but from many defence debates in recent months, that defence procurement policy and especially the delays in placing orders and, in some cases, the non-placing of orders, have been having grave effects on employment prospects in many parts of the country. On a number of occasions the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam) has raised the issue of the royal ordnance factory in his constituency which has been manufacturing ammunition. My hon. Friends the Members for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) and for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) have on many occasions expressed concern about future employment prospects at Westland because of delays in decisions on helicopter procurement. There have been cries for help from the north-east where the future of the Swan Hunter yard is critical, and we have had cries from the Clyde shipyards and those who represent Clydeside constituencies. I am sure that when the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State for Scotland he was well aware of the need for defence orders to go to yards such as Scott Lithgow on the lower Clyde.
The social and economic consequences of a procurement policy cannot be ignored. If it is felt, understandably, that the defence budget should not be carrying the burden of what, in many respects, would be a social policy and a burden which should more appropriately be borne by the social security budget — surely our accounting systems are not so inflexible as to fail to allow for some reallocation of resources to take into account decisions which might be influenced more by social and economic
I have mentioned some of the difficult procurement decisions or non-decisions which have caused anxiety. The Select Committee, in its valuable report, in paragraph 15, states:
merely 'managing' the defence budget in the way endorsed in"—
the 1985 Estimate—
could result in a defence review by stealth.
I do not believe that it will be a defence review by stealth because stealth implies that some thought and deliberation has been given to it. I suspect that it will be a defence review by ad hockery. As each decision comes up, it will be either deferred or shelved, and in the next few years we will stumble from one crisis to another. That is why, over a number of months, my right hon. and hon. Friends have pressed for a proper defence review so that we can make a proper assessment of our commitments in relation to our resources.
We have heard again today about the latest instalment of what the future size of the frigate fleet will be. The Under-Secretary, opening the debate, said that it would be about 50. Perhaps the Minister, when he replies, will tell us when "about 50" will become "about 45." That seems to be fudge on a grand scale. I think that those ad hoc decisions are an ingredient of the most unpalatable brand of fudge served up by the present Administration.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) indicated that we identify Trident expenditure as the cuckoo in the nest — that item of expenditure which is leading to a major squeeze on other items of new defence equipment. He delivered an effective critique of the Trident programme and why it should be cancelled on the grounds of cost and escalation in our nuclear capacity. I believe that by proceeding with the Trident programme we are losing twice over. We are losing not only on the cost we must face in terms of conventional defence but also because of the stumbling block which Trident represents at a time when deep cuts are being sought in arms negotiation talks.
Let us consider, for example, the proposals put forward by Mr. Gorbachev on intermediate nuclear weapons which suggested that United States and Soviet intermediate nuclear weapons should be eliminated from Europe. Mr. Gorbachev did not ask as a condition for the scrapping of the United Kingdom or French nuclear weapon programmes, only that our forces should not be increased — in other words, that we should not escalate from Polaris to Trident. However, the Prime Minister on more than one occasion has refused to give even that commitment. That possible avenue for exploration and negotiation has been effectively blocked by the Government's obsession to keep the Trident programme alive.
I would now like to consider the progress which the alliance would like to see made towards the negotiation of a comprehensive test ban treaty. We have been told regularly by Ministers at the Dispatch Box, and it appears in the "Statement on the Defence Estimates," that the major problem in negotiating such a treaty is verification. That flies in the face of the views of an increasing number of scientists who believe that there are no longer any real technical obstacles to the negotiation of a verifiable comprehensive test ban treaty.
Last week in Nevada we saw the real reason why we have not taken any initiative over the test ban treaty. A nuclear device was exploded. No doubt that was part of the Trident programme. Again Trident is an obstacle to an initiative which we were well placed to take.
We should have responded more positively to the Gorbachev moratorium on nuclear testing. If we dismiss every overture and initiative as simple propaganda, nothing will be achieved. It is worth remembering that in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis it was President Kennedy who announced a unilateral moratorium on atmospheric testing. That was the first step on the way towards a partial test ban treaty. As one of the signatories to that treaty, Britain is well placed to take the initiative to have comprehensive test ban treaty negotiations started again.
Many nations which do not have nuclear weapons attach great importance to a nuclear test ban treaty. They see it as evidence of our good faith which we are obliged to show under the non-proliferation treaty. Since the debate on the Estimates last year, there has been a review conference on the non-proliferation treaty. Exceptional disquiet was expressed by many nations over the lack of progress made in arms talks and the fact that, while they kept to their side of the bargain — there has been no proliferation and the treaty has been more successful than many people thought it would be when first signed—they still have to look to us to show good faith as we are obliged under the treaty.
I believe that not enough attention has been paid to common security, which was one of the main themes of the alliance's joint commission report. The improvement that we seek in international relations goes hand in hand with specific agreements on arms control, and there are many specific proposals to that end in our defence commission report.
I will cut my remarks short and conclude by saying that the alliance commission's proposals should be read. They contain a common thread of consistency and they will have a great appeal to the electorate when they are studied in detail before the next election.
I should like to support and underpin the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) about our visit last week to the Falkland Islands. I, too, pay tribute to the professionalism of the three arms of our services and to the integration of those three arms. I should like the Secretary of State to note the services' attitude to their mail, and also the comments on the oddities of that special pay.
Not until I was in the Falklands did the nonsense of distance strike home—not the distance from here to the Falklands, but the distance in the south Atlantic area from Argentina to Stanley, from Stanley to South Georgia, and from South Georgia to the South Sandwich Islands. I reexamined the atlas in the Library today, and it appears that the islands are almost halfway between Buenos Aires and Cape Town. The mind boggles at the comments that might come from the Opposition Benches if South Africa used the distance argument in a sovereignty debate. There is no logic in that argument. We might as well say that Cyprus is 40 miles from Turkey, but 400 miles from Greece. I know that my brother-in-law's mother is Jersey French. Distance clearly has nothing to do with the argument. The point is, we must defend what is right.
I do not share the view of those Opposition Members who have stated —I shall have to paraphrase, as I do not have the pamphlet with me—that they will negotiate away the "albatross" of the Falklands. I do not share that simplistic view. Frankly, I criticise the role played in this matter by the Commonwealth and that of the United Nations, who, above all else, should defend the right of any nation, however small its population, to have self-determination.
I should like to consider the main points of difference between the parties in this debate on defence. There is no point in defence unless that defence has the capability of matching, on its own or with a credible and secure alliance, a foreseeable threat to our country and its people. There is no point in having all the hardware unless that foreseeable threat perceives our will to use it. That was the great long-term benefit for peace that arose from the Falklands conflict.
If that is so, the hon. Gentleman must make his decisions.
That is why a conventional army without a nuclear capability in a nuclear world would be a pointless waste of resources. However large that conventional arm, a threat from whatever source of a nuclear reaction would render our conventional arm utterly useless. The Conservative party has the only credible and believable defence policy.
There is an awful sense of detachedness about defence debates in this place. I listened very carefully to the Secretary of State's opening speech yesterday. To hear someone quietly and dispassionately talking about vast resources being devoted to weapons of death and destruction was unnerving, unreal and, at times, downright obscene. It was also supremely irrelevant to the real problems of this country and the rest of the world.
We are surrounded by poverty, famine and disease in the world, yet countless billions of dollars are spent on arms in this country and elsewhere. I should like to make a quick contrast. Yesterday, the Faculty of Community Medicine—part of the Royal College of Physicians—published a report which showed that Britain now has one of the worst health records among developed countries, after being a leader a generation ago.
Britain now devotes a smaller percentage of resources to health than any other European country, with the exception of Greece. Chapter 5 of the Estimates boasts that in 1986–87 the United Kingdom will spend more on defence in absolute terms than any other European country in NATO, second only to the United States. As a percentage of national output, we spend more on defence than any other NATO country, apart from Greece. That is not a matter for self-congratulation as we hear from the Government Benches. To be statistically portrayed as a nation of disease-ridden warmongers is not an attractive image and not one which even the Prime Minister would wish to foster. That merely demonstrates how perverted the values of our country have become since 1979.
I should like to raise two specific points in my short speech, and I hope that the Minister will answer them when he replies. They echo the comments of my hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and for Battersea (Mr. Dubs). I hope the Minister read the article that appeared in The Observer on 8 June. It claimed:
The seven regiments of the Household Division. … operate an unofficial colour bar.
Apparently when it comes to Trooping the Colour one can have any colour one likes, as long as it is not black.
The Ministry of Defence has hotly denied that there is a colour bar. Of course, one would expect that. However, I hope that the Minister will call in some of the evidence. I shall quote from the article in The Observer. It says:
One serving senior Guards NCO told us: 'There are no blacks in the Guards. There have never been and never will be. People do not want to see a black face under a bearskin. Blacks are generally persuaded to go elsewhere'.
There was also a letter in the Sunday Telegraph of 22 June. A regimental medical officer said that he saw a black recruit in the Brigade of Guards and was
summoned to the CO's office to he told that he had just seen a black Grenadier on parade and what could I do about his medical discharge?
The medical officer said that he could do nothing, because the man was A1 fit. Apparently, the education officer was contacted and the black Guardsman was given an aptitude IQ test. It was discovered that the recruit was too intelligent for life as a guardsman, so he was transferred to the RASC for training in motor vehicle maintenance.
In a way, those are just anecdotes. However, given the evidence in the Observer article and the statements that have been made by my hon. Friends, I hope that the Minister will take the matter seriously. I also hope that he will ensure that an inquiry is immediately launched into the colour bar that is allegedly being operated within the Household Division. There is clearly concern among Opposition Members on this issue.
Indeed, given the degree of concern, it is strange that the Minister should refuse point blank to have ethnic monitoring. That is not good enough. If the Minister is to be credible when denying such allegations, he must be able to produce the evidence to refute them. Without ethnic monitoring, he clearly cannot do so. The Army needs a policy of equal opportunities throughout. We also need ethnic monitoring, and we must have that inquiry into the allegations of a colour bar being operated in the Household Division.
My second point relates to the activities of the military attaches from the South African embassy in London.
Of course I should like the inquiry to be extended, but discrimination seems to be particularly bad in the Household Division. That is where the the colour bar seems to operate most rigidly. I therefore ask the Minister to pay serious attention to the concern expressed and to ensure that an inquiry is launched.
I asked the Minister a question about the activities of the South African military attaches, and he replied:
During the past three years, South African attaches, as part of organised groups of attaches from other Foreign and Commonwealth countries, have made some 30 visits to defence establishments and attended six defence-related social or ceremonial functions."—[Official Report, 16 June 1986, Vol. 99, c. 471.]
I hope that the Minister will hold discussions with the Foreign Secretary about expelling those South African military attaches from the United Kingdom. If he is not prepared to go that far, will he at least stop inviting them to defence establishments, where they are wined and dined at the expense of British taxpayers? When considering this, the Minister should bear in mind the role of the South African armed forces and the way in which they have invaded and occupied surrounding black states. He should also bear in mind the way in which they repress their own domestic population. I am sorry if the Minister finds that amusing, because it is not meant to be an amusing matter.
Those are the two matters to which I should like the Minister to respond.
In the short time available, I shall confine my remarks to RAF matters. In doing so, I must declare an interest as a serving RAFVR officer.
I remind the Government that the EFA programme is very much welcomed by the RAF, along with the developments that are being made. We also welcome the fact that the demonstrator aircraft is now flying. Indeed, I remind my right hon. and hon. Friends that the F16 was originally built as a demonstrator and is now the most effective air superiority aircraft in the world. Therefore, there is hope that our demonstrator aircraft may spawn something worth while. We also welcome the Tornado programme and the Hawk air defence capability that has now been introduced.
I turn to an area that is causing concern — the airborne early warning task—but before doing so, I believe that the House would wish me to place on record our congratulations to all those who operate and maintain the elderly Shackleton aircraft fleet. There is no doubt that they have done a splendid job for many years. There must be no question of that vital area of RAF operations being required to accept aircraft or equipment that cannot fully meet the task requirements of the 1990s and the early part of the next century.
I remind the House that Soviet aircraft and sea-skimming Contour missiles will have the technology to confuse the present generation of radar. The need is for state of the art technology and for software. Anything less will not do. Decisions in that area can have a dramatic impact on the RAF's limited air defence capability.
Unless we can get the Tornado aircraft and the surface-to-air missiles locked on to targets at an early stage in the penetration of the United Kingdom's defence area, the massive investment that the nation has made in Tornado and other defence weapons systems will be substantially diminished in both value and effectiveness. That aspect of the United Kingdom's air defence needs must not be required to accept second best. Second best will not do. If GEC cannot meet the RAF's requirements, an alternative must be decided upon. That will be difficult, but it must be so. If that happens, other factors will also have to be considered, including the value of offset arrangements, the involvement of United Kingdom research and development, and the manufacturing and export order potential for anything that is bought.
It will not surprise my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State if I now turn to the basic trainer. What is the current situation? Is the programme on time? When will the RAF at Boscombe Down receive an aircraft for in-depth evaluation? When can the flying training units expect to receive their first production aircraft? Who will pay if modifications are required to bring the aircraft up to the air staff target requirement, or for any delays in the aircraft's introduction into service? By that I mean the cost of the revenue implications of running on the Jet Provost fleet.
I shall not delay the House with my concern over the helicopter needs of the Army and the RAF, as I believe that the matter was dealt with adequately in yesterday's debate. Suffice it to say, however, that I wish to add my name to the list of those who believe that an early decision is required, and I am glad that there will be a decision some time this year.
The Bulldog and Chipmunk aircraft are both due for substantial modification and re-equipment programmes. Before embarking on those programmes, perhaps consideration should be given to replacing both aircraft. After all, the Chipmunk is a 1948 design. I suggest that one or two of the British flight trainers that are available will suit the job. The Trago Mills or the Slingsby aircraft could be effective.
I come to a subject dear to me, which involves the air cadets and the splendid job done by their gliding schools and by the central gliding school establishment. I welcome the comments made yesterday at the end of the debate, and I draw attention to the need to maintain adequate airfield capacity. In particular, I wish to mention the problems in the north-east of England, in central Scotland—in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has an interest — and in southern England.
The problems that I wish to draw attention to involve the reactivating of No. 641 gliding school. The problems are not new. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be aware that many years ago—more than I care to mention—I was the last commanding officer of that school when it was active at RAF Dishforth, and before that at RAF Ouston which had been the base of the school for more than 20 years.
I believe that there is a real prospect of reactivating the school at what used to be RAF Ouston, which is now an army unit. To do so will require the agreement of the air traffic authorities at Newcastle airport. I do not wish to understate the difficulties that there may be in reaching an agreement. However, I believe that the radio equipment in the new air cadet training sail planes makes proper air control over operations at Ouston a viable proposition that should be pursued with considerable vigour.
The problems facing 662 gliding school at the army base at Kirknewton near Edinburgh are a different matter. They are more related to which of the services is the landlord and to the use of the aircraft hangars. The arrangements for air cadet gliding schools to operate from airfields that are run by one of the other services has, in the main, worked well. The best example that I can give is the marine base at Condor Arbroath where 662 gliding school has been based for almost 30 years, first with the Fleet Air Arm, with which I served as a chief flying instructor over 30 years ago, and later with the Marines. I wish only that the experience of 662 gliding school was the norm.
Sadly, there have been times when army units have not been as co-operative as the Royal Navy and the Marines. I hope that any members of the Army who read the debate will take note of the example set by the Marines and the Royal Navy. Because of this, and because airfields are not always suitable for conventional gliders, air cadets have been required to make use of their fleet of motor gliders, or self-launching gliders as they are sometimes called. The flexibility offered by this type of equipment cannot be overstated. If cadets in every part of the United Kingdom are to have access to gliding, a few more motor gliders will need to be purchased. In particular, I would recommend the purchase of the Grobb 109, which is the most cost-effective, off-the-shelf purchase.
A few extra motor gliders could help to solve the problem of operations from airfields that are unsuitable for conventional gliders. That is particularly the case in southern England. That may be of particular interest to my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces who is to wind up the debate, because it affects West Mailing which is in his constituency. It may make all the difference between gliding or no gliding for many hundreds, or possibly thousands, of cadets.
May I also ask what is the up-to-date situation with regard to the replacement of Land Rovers and the new winches for the gliding fleet at the conventional gliding schools. Finally, may I say how much the volunteer officers and instructors appreciated the remarks of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement in winding up last night. It is always appreciated when this House recognises the service that is given by these volunteers, for which they receive no recompense. The air cadet organisation has depended for many decades upon volunteers who give their time for nothing. May I thank my right hon. Friend— —
We all say things in this House that we live to regret. Yesterday, the Secretary of State said:
The House may agree with me that the actions of today's Opposition make the Luddites of old like wizards of high technology by comparison." — [Official Report, 30 June 1986; Vol. 100, c. 717.]
That was said in relation to the strategic defence initiative. I was present at Ye Olde Cheddar Cheese in Fleet street when the Leader of the Opposition made his statement on SDI. That statement was gone through with many toothcombs by people who really know about these matters and it must be fully answered—as, indeed, must the Edinburgh meeting on 19 June between officials of the Secretary of State for Defence and scientists from Edinburgh university. I asked for that meeting on 9 December, to which the Secretary of State's predecessor, the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) agreed —and all credit to the right hon. Gentleman.
The Edinburgh scientists argued:
The design of the SDI system and its computing basis would be necessarily flawed.
Their detailed arguments are known to the Ministry of Defence, and they have to be answered.
The Edinburgh scientists also argued:
The implementation of that design in computer hardware and software would introduce further mistakes.
Professor Milner and his colleagues have to be answered. They also argued:
The system could not be adequately tested to uncover the resulting problems
Artificial Intelligence offers no magic solutions.
The people who say this are not only the European but probably the world leaders in artificial intelligence.
Once deployed, there would be failures that the system could not detect, which could be catastrophic
British computing research would be diverted from more socially and industrially relevant work by SDI participation.
They also argued:
The research community would be divided and weakened by security requirements
The impact on the British economy of SDI participation would be negative.
In particular, they said:
The SDI Battle Management System, if it were to be built, would be the largest and most complex real-time computer system ever. It would be composed of land, air- and space-based computers networked together, and its task would be to continuously monitor a vast array of sensors, determine when a hostile missile attack had occurred, determine the trajectories of the missiles, allocate first-layer weapons to missiles, direct their firing, assess the results and try again at the next layer.
This adds up to a game of celestial snooker.
Can we design such a computer system? And given such a design, could we construct it in a way that realised the design correctly? And having constructed it, could we trust it to do what we want it to do? The answer to all these questions, the experts say, is no.
As this is a research programme to find the answers to exactly that sort of question, is not the logic of the hon. Gentleman's argument that his friends who hold these strong views should join the research programme and prove their case, if that is what they want to do?
The difficulty, they say, is that in the absence of a spare planet, which the Ministry of Defence does not have, there is no way of testing SDI, but if the Ministry of Defence is saying that all the Edinburgh questions will be answered, I shall regard that as an achievement of my speech.
What chances, Dr. Henry Thompson says, are there of anyone surviving the doubtless automatic response to that very real assault to examine the programme and correct the flaw? How, for instance, does the Secretary of State for Defence answer Jane Hesketh, who says:
Although the system may be hierarchically defined, none of the above can be avoided, indeed they apply at all levels. Higher levels of the system must plan to cope with all the kinds of signals which may be manifested by lower levels, for whatever reason — correct operation, operator error, mechanical failure, component failure, power failure, enemy action etc.
Leaving Edinburgh, is it not a fact that the Prime Minister agreed to SDI in December 1984 on the basis of four conditions? One was that the United States would not try to achieve superiority; two,that deployment would be negotiated with the Soviet Union and would not violate the ABM treaty; three, that it would enhance, not undermine, deterrence; and four, that it would achieve security through East-West negotiations with reduced offensive weapons on both sides. I attended an all-day conference at Kensington town hall organised by Richard Ennals and Paul Walton on Wednesday last week, and my understanding is that three at least out of these four conditions have not been adhered to.
It is not simply a question of Luddites who are critical. The Institute of Strategic Studies is critical. The Senate Armed Services Committee in America has reduced the budget from $5·4 billion to $3·9 billion. There is undoubtedly great pressure from thousands of Washington lobbyists. Can we imagine an American situation where the Senate funds firms that are in competition with American firms? All right, as my hon. Friends have said, they may skim off the best of research at Heriot-Watt and elsewhere on optical physics and optical lasers, but when it comes to lucrative hardware, Seven hundred members of the US Academy of Sciences and 54 Nobel prize winners have come out against it. Eighty Oxford academics in related subjects such as metallurgy and physics have come out against SDI. Many Scottish universities, reeling, as Glasgow as Edinburgh are, from financial cuts, have members who have come out against it.
I just ask, will the Secretary of State possibly interrupt me and say that he is prepared to answer point by point the continuing dialogue that the Edinburgh computer scientists are engaged in with his Department? Will he give the assurance that they will get a proper sustained hearing?
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me the opportunity. I will always do my best to answer any questions that he asks of me, of course, but if it is a question that his friends have strong views about the SDI programme, it is, I emphasise, a research programme and it is trying to find the answers which nobody knows to many of these problems. If he feels strongly about it. he should join in it and tell them the answers.
In this important debate on the Defence Estimates, I wish to raise two key points: first, the aspect of NATO purchasing of defence equipment, and, secondly, the issue of chemical weapons.
On the first point, a market place does not exist. The economic laws of nature do not apply. The civil commercial world does not exist. Indeed, the state is the consumer. Since we are discussing the survival of the protected, it is vital that our citizens have that security in both conventional and nuclear armaments, and that we ensure value for money. NATO has a collective military strategy but no collective approach towards providing the means to fulfil it. Surely we need some NATO structure for pooling resources. Too many NATO statements are of the motherhood variety such as, "We must safeguard the free world." Why is there not common funding for defence research? Although I understand that there are seven collaborative projects among NATO states, there is far too much duplication. In fact, a former Secretary of State for Defence has adequately explained this in some detail in speeches. Rather than my going through all the cases in the limited time available, I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware of those and may allude to them in winding up.
Rather than have a fight between states that will develop a project, the Defence Ministers of NATO could spread out procurement among member states. I appreciate that there is an agreement on sharing technology such as between the United Kingdom and Spain and the valuable work of the Independent European Programme Group. This could be the embryo for a full-blown procurement programme.
I believe that there is an awareness in all NATO nations on both sides of the Atlantic that we face great challenges in our security arrangements. We must act as a collective, united group of democratic nations in meeting them.
The day has gone when Soviet quantitative superiority could be compensated by Western qualitative advantages. I am greatly worried about this gap of five to one on major equipment. Furthermore, the Western pact exercises its forces in a purely offensive manner. It is clear that Soviet military leaders, should they choose to attack, seek the capability rapidly to overrun NATO defence positions and bring a war in Europe to a rapid conclusion.
By modernising NATO's forces, the West can counter the threat from Soviet SS20 missiles and other weapons. Clearly a unified armed procurement policy within NATO will improve our defence position and the United Kingdom contribution to it.
My second point is about chemical weapons. In the late 1950s, Britain unilaterally abandoned chemical weapons. The pilot production plant for nerve agents in Cornwall was dismantled. Indeed, in the general election year of 1979 a party of international experts was invited to the Cornish site to see for themselves that it was possible to dismantle such production facilities safely. Today, as I understand it, Britain has no chemical weapons of her own and has no plans to re-acquire any. Research is concentrated on defensive measures, such as gasmasks and protective suits.
The United States has also stopped the manufacture of chemical weapons since 1969, but small stocks that are available to NATO exist in West Germany. I was discussing with NATO commanders last week on a visit to Brussels the difficulties that arise from that. Clearly, those stocks are becoming unstable after some 15 years. If there is to be replacement of that chemical weaponry, is it to be sited in Germany, in the United Kingdom, at say, Upper Heyford, or in the United States, our fellow member of NATO?
I appreciate the sincere belief of Opposition Members about the removal of nuclear deterrents, hut they do not answer the convincing argument in connection with chemical weaponry—that, although we have abandoned chemical weaponry, the Soviets have not followed suit. The best way to cope with the difficulties is for all nations to agree to the conclusion of a comprehensive and verifiable ban not only on the use but on the manufacture and stockpiling of chemical weapons, and to agree to destroy existing stocks. In the absence of an agreed ban, it will be necessary to continue to deter the Soviet Union from considering the use of its powerful chemical capability against the West. I understand that the United States proposes to modernise present stocks.
My right hon. Friend should push for such a treaty, whether in Vienna or Geneva, in his discussions with the Soviets. The talks aimed at a comprehensive agreement on chemical weapons began in the 1960s in the 18-nation disarmament committee. Initially, there was little pressure for a ban. The draft treaty of 1976, which is still on the table, should be pursued with alacrity by the new Secretary of State. The feeling in the Western world is that we have one of the best chances yet to conclude a treaty. The alernative is almost too horrific to contemplate, with the placing almost certainly in Britain of chemical weapons. If we are to seize the momentum in 1986, the chance is before us.
Diplomacy must succeed to ensure peace. But it will do so only if we have a realistic defence capability. I hope that my right hon. Friend will respond to the two key points that I have highlighted in the defence debate.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you please ensure that it is placed on the record that I and several other hon. Members have been unable to contribute to the debate? Indeed, many of my hon. Friends had to curtail their speeches severely. It is important that that is placed on the official record, because in the past it has been used as a slur against Labour Members that they were not interested in defence debates. That is clearly not the case now, but we have not been given the opportunity to participate.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Chair rightly operated the 10 minute rule this evening. Could it possibly consider these double-day debates when four Front Bench spokesmen from each side take part? The time taken by the Front Bench so far has been enormous. There have been two 45-minute speeches, plus two of half-an-hour each. Yet there are still two of us who have failed to get in, despite a constituency interest.
I realise the disappointment of the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) and the hon. Member for Leeds, North West (Dr. Hampson) and other hon. Gentlemen, on both sides of the House, who have not been able to get into the debate today. All I can say, which I hope will be of some slight consolation, is that at the beginning of today's debate Mr. Speaker said that he would give some precedence to those who were here for a substantial part of yesterday's debate, and they just managed, in every case, to get called today. However, I apologise to the hon. Gentlemen. I am sure they will realise that the length of speeches from the Front Benches is a matter for the Front Benches and not for the Chair.
I think it is also fair to point out that statements were stacked up today, which prevented this debate from starting until way after 5 o'clock.
However, although it has started comparatively late, the debate has gone on for some 12 hours. At times, those of us who have to reply have some difficulty in remembering exactly what we are supposed to be debating. Some of the issues raised concern the past. There is a degree of repetition in debates of this length and I was casting around for a means of trying to pull some of the threads together. I remembered the nonconformist background of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), and I was led to the conclusion that I should perhaps seek a text.
I needed to look no further than the remarks of the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, who said last night that the message of the White Paper was
continuity, consolidation and realism".—[Official Report, 30 June 1986; Vol 100, c. 793]
I congratulate the Under-Secretary on his appointment and his speech, but I would point out that it is sometimes dangerous to confuse loyalty to one's colleagues and superiors with blindness to the truth.
Our contention is that this White Paper is a break with continuity. We believe that the consolidation in certain defence activities, which we would like to see, has been undermined and that realism is sadly lacking when it comes to the nuclear cloud which has hung over this debate. Throughout the debate we have had a series of speeches from hon. Members expressing constituency interests who have said that they want a particular project to be pursued although they have been extremely cautious about what they can get out of the Government because of the financial strictures which have been placed upon expenditure.
Page 39 of last year's report from the Select Committee on Defence stated:
Both the Secretary of State"—
the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine)—
and the Chief of Defence Staff told us that, if level funding in reals terms is maintained then the programme would be manageable. Our view, which was confirmed by the thrust of the CDS's evidence, is that with the present policy there is bound to be a substantial real cut.
On that occasion there was a degree of difference, because the right hon. Member for Henley stated:
If you say to me would it do harm to reduce the defence budget by 7 per cent. I would think that it is an unthinkable denial of resources in the defence budget. There are no plans or any discussions or even information that such a thing could come about ".
The remarks of the right hon. Gentleman do not suggest a degree of continuity.
From the early days of this year, with the right hon. Gentleman's rapid departure and the arrival of the new rapid deployment force in the shape of the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), there has been a change of view especially with regard to consolidation.
There is not much hope for consolidation in relation to frigate orders. We have had the figure of 50 reduced to near 50, just about 50 or around 50. I am not sure where that comes in simple arithmetic. My understanding is that if one adds 40 and 10 one gets 50. If one takes 10 away from 50 one does not get Younger, one gets Nott. This will not be the consolidation process which we expected considering the speech of the Under-Secretary last night.
As for realism, frankly, the document is undermined by the need to find money and resources from other budgets to fund the independent strategic nuclear strike force—a strike force which was described elsewhere as an expensive luxury, irrelevant both to the needs of NATO and to Britain's defence. I do not use those words lightly. They were used by a distinguished former soldier, whom I think is known to everyone.
The heart of the debate lies in paragraph 503 on page 40 of the statement on Defence Estimates where it says:
Although the budget for 1986–87 and the two subsequent years, as published in the recent Public Expenditure White Paper, is planned to rise in cash terms, its value in real terms will decrease by about 6 per cent. over the three-year period.
The use of the word "about" could mean that it might be 5 per cent. or 7 per cent., but certainly we are seeing a massive cut in the defence budget which, according to the statement on the Defence Estimates, will require difficult decisions to be taken.
I want to remind the House that the proposed cuts will probably amount to something in the order of 6·4 per cent. over the years between 1984–85 and 1988–89. As I understand it, that will have the effect of cutting the equipment budget overall by about 10 per cent. up to 1989. The impact will not necessarily be felt on new equipment immediately, but it is certainly true to say that non-Trident new equipment will be cut in real terms by something in the order of 25 per cent.
Those figures were used by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) and they have some currency as they come from the Defence Information Group — a respectable research group. If, as I go through the figures, there is any possibility that they are wrong, I hope that the Minister will correct my arithmetic when he replies because I know that the academics who have prepared those figures would be interested to see where their findings have gone astray.
It is true that the Labour party has continually expressed the desire to cut defence expenditure. We want to see a shift in our national priorities. In 1979 for every £100 spent on education and science some £79 was spent on defence. Five years later in 1984, for every £100 spent on education and science, £101 was spent on defence.
Meeting our responsibilities within the Western Alliance means that spending levels may well have to be sustained at those almost unacceptable levels because we recognise that the next Government will have to repair the damage to the conventional budget which the figures that we have been discussing this evening will inflict upon that budget.
Where will those cuts be made? We have heard it said that expenditure on Trident will rise from the 198485 figure of £ 163 million to about £900 million in 1988–89. 'To fund that, conventional spending will have to be cut by about 10·8 per cent. in real terms over the next four years.
It has been made clear, and I think that all hon. Members would agree, that any cuts of that nature should not come out of the spending on personnel. At the mornent the personnel budget accounts for about 35 per cent. of the whole budget. It is suggested that there may well be some reductions in personnel— about 2·5 per cent. in the numbers for the armed forces and about 6 to 7 per cent. in the numbers of civilians.
But, frankly, there may well have to be an increase in the figure of 35 per cent. if service wages are to keep up with outside pay and conditions. At the moment the Government are taking consolation from the fact that fewer people are leaving the services now than in the late 1980s, but in their complacency they seem to forget that there are now 3·5 million people out of work, whereas in the 1970s the figure was barely one third of that. At that time Britain's defence industries were looking forward with some optimism to future increases in defence expenditure and were head-hunting for people to fill gaps in their organisations. I realise that account may have to be taken of possible cuts in the Falklands commitment. We are led to believe that the figure will have been reduced to about £165 million in 1988–89 from an outturn figure of about £684 million in the last financial year for which we have figures. Even allowing for that, however, conventional spending excluding the Falklands will still fall by about 8·1 per cent.
As well as the Falklands, there may well be a fall caused by the reduction in oil prices. However, the largest part of the cuts will be found in the 46 per cent. of the budget accounted for by equipment. Between 1978–79 and 1984–85 that budget grew by about 47·5 per cent., or 6·7 per cent. per annum in real terms. Government Members have continually stressed that figure. The increase was split almost evenly between new equipment and spares and maintenance. In sea systems there was a 38 per cent. increase, in land systems a 52 per cent. increase and— largely because of Tornado—there was a 63 per cent. increase in air systems. According to the Estimates, between 1985–86 and 1986–87 there will be a cut of 4·8 per cent. in real terms of which spares, maintenance and repairs will account for just over 13 per cent. Expenditure on land systems—ammunitions, mines and explosives—will fall from £322 million in 1984 to £190 million in 1987.
In air systems—aircraft, engine support, instruments and avionics, the edges of technology—expenditure will fall from £1,001 million to £752 million.
I appreciate that some hon. Members may find these figures tedious. However, although they may not read my remarks in Hansard for their flow of eloquence, they may well recall them when, during the long recess, they meet the firms in their constituencies that are engaged in the armaments business and begin to find out what is happening on the other side of the counter and what problems are arising about the orders.
In avionics and air systems, there is a drop of £250 million.
During the recess, I shall meet the managing director of Vickers. The hon. Gentleman met him too some time ago. The hon. Gentleman frequently quotes or misquotes the managing director. May I ask him a question that the managing director has put to me? If there is a general election on Thursday and on Friday the Labour Government cancels Trident, what will the lads in the yard do on Monday morning? I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not say, "build more hunter-killer submarines". There are such things as design work and long lead orders. What will my constituents do on Monday morning after a Labour victory?
The hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) has attended at least one day of the debate and has heard some of the Labour arguments. As far as I know, the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness entered the Chamber only a few moments ago and appeared briefly yesterday afternoon.
When it was seeking control of the privatised yard the firm stated in its prospectus that it was confident that a Labour Government would find work for the yard. I am sure that the managing director would not mislead the people to the extent that has been suggested. It may be that the hon. Gentleman does not understand the answers that have been given repeatedly, but the position is clear. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] I must move on.
At present the RAF has had to forgo the delivery of Tornados because the Tornados which it was to receive have gone to Saudi. That represents a new style of cuts and savings because equipment which was destined for the RAF but which goes to another country, conveniently, does not appear in the accounts for the forthcoming year.
It is anticipated that the cost of the sea systems will increase from about £163 million in 1984–85 to about £500 million in 1986–87. Although there are also to be some changes in shore construction, probably at Rosyth, the net non-Trident cut in sea systems will be about 8 per cent.
This evening, there have already been repeated requests for a clear, explicit statement as soon as possible about what the frigate orders will be. We are anxious that the statement is made before the recess and that it will give the number of ships. This evening we should like to know how many ships will be ordered, and the correct answers to questions 503, 504 and 505 in the Select Committee document. If, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) says, the answers given by Mr. Levene to the Committee are untrue, it raises serious problems about the way in which the Chief of Defence Procurement conducts his relations with the Select Committee. One would have thought that those relations are central to parliamentary scrutiny of the procurement side of the budget.
The Minister has already had more than two hours to find an answer to that, and this evening we expect a response from him. Grave allegations have been made and my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas), who pursued Mr. Levene in Committee, is entitled to have the position made clear. He is extremely embarrassed at the way in which the matter has been raised.
The equipment budget, regardless of spares and so on, has been a source of pride to Conservative Members. Indeed, the Government have kept their word about supplying the forces. In 1984–85 the figure stood at £7,961 million, but by 1988–89 it will have decreased to £7,125 million. If expenditure on Trident is excluded there will be a decrease of about 20 per cent. over four years. If the ongoing side of the fares and maintenance is excluded, non-Trident new equipment will fall from about £4,600 million to £3,500 million—a reduction of 25 per cent.
The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) mentioned that figure in his speech. In many respects his speech was a model of concision, given the difficulties he had in speaking in the debate. I must say that the hon. Gentleman probably said much more in 10 minutes today than the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said in 50 minutes yesterday. However, in the midst of his remarks about the desirability of a complete test ban, the hon. Gentleman did not say whether the Liberals would have a successor to Polaris and would go along with the right hon. Member for Devonport. If they are to have a successor to Polaris, would it be tested? There must be a new kind of device which does not need testing, one which will work the first time that it is used. [Interruption.] In addition to all his other qualities, the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) assumes to himself the qualities of prescience and omnipresence. The analysis and the criticism were prefectly acceptable, but sadly the conclusions left a great deal to be desired.
Many warheads have already been tested and we know they all go bang. I am not saying that we would have a successor to Polaris, but it would not be an insurmountable problem if at the end of the day we decided that there was a need for it.
If the report in The Guardian yesterday was correct, one can have big bombs or no bombs and if one is a member of the alliance one can have small bombs, because somehow they are acceptable. They are like the Victorian chambermaid's illegitimate child — it is all right if it is a little one. Perhaps the alliance has not yet made up its mind. Perhaps at its conference in Eastbourne the alliance will reach its conclusions.
The nature of the Estimates that the Secretary of State has presented will result in 1988–89 in new equipment spending being no higher than it was in 1979–80. We will be back to where we started, to the beginning of the so-called fat years. Many things must be done to ensure that our contribution to the NATO Alliance is sustained. We have heard in debates elsewhere that decisions cannot be evaded by using a combination of gimmicks and sleight of hand. It is quite clear that orders will be postponed. Only nine frigates have so far been ordered and that is 12 fewer than we ought to have. A former Chief Sea Lord has said that this is a figure of extraordinary discrepancy.
Savings cannot come from a tail to teeth exercise and they certainly cannot come from the privatisation of the dockyards. The Government will have to face some choices before 1988–89. They will have to decide whether there is to be a reduction in the British Army of the Rhine and whether there will be a reduction from 50 to 40 frigates. They will have to decide whether to sell off any of the Invincible class carriers.
There is an absence of any definite or specific expression of commitment about the role of the amphibious craft mentioned in paragraph 42. Last year the Select Committee said:
If the UK does not replace us amphibious capability NATO reinforcement plans for the Northern flank will be in jeopardy.
Given that the Government are unlikely to renege on Tornado, a large question must be raised about the orders for 250 of the European fighter aircraft. The role of Britain within NATO must be a non-nuclear one. That is a role in keeping with our economic position and with a need to secure a degree of peace and security within Europe. The Opposition recognise that in other parts of the House there is a lack of enthusiasm for that policy, but we also know that throughout Britain, following the bombing of Libya and the frightening experience for Europe of the Chernobyl disaster, people are clearly aware of the size of Europe and of the dangers of an explosion equivalent to a kilotonne shell that is not even on the surface. Chernobyl was not an air burst. The fear and anxiety surrounding an explosion of that scale has brought to many people's minds the cruel reality of what even a limited nuclear exchange would be like.
In keeping with this country's tradition as a source of peace and security throughout the world, especially in Europe, we must modify our ambitions, in conjunction with countries which are in the NATO Alliance —Canada, Norway, Denmark and Spain—and which have just decided to commit themselves to a non-nuclear policy within NATO. As Lord Carrington said, it is an a la carte NATO. There are many precedents. We recognise that our American allies will not be over-impressed by what we are doing. But it is an alliance. It is a group of partners who should be able to agree and disagree and come together again. We believe that our policies and those embodied in our amendment are sufficient to require the support of the House. I invite my hon. Friends and other hon. Members to join us in the Lobbies to ensure that our policy becomes this country's policy.
The fundamental point to which the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) did not address himself was that a non-nuclear policy within NATO is a contradiction. If every member of NATO pursued that policy, there would be nothing left of the NATO Alliance.
Inevitably we have spent a great deal of time talking about defence policies, but just as important are the men and women of the armed forces. Since our debate last year they have been on duty in the United Kingdom and in 64 countries overseas. Many have served in very demanding conditions. They have served at sea, under the sea, in every type of terrain and climate and in all types of flying conditions, ranging from the best to the appalling. They have been engaged in life-saving operations in Ethiopia, Mexico, Colombia, Aden and Jamaica, and in search and rescue throughout the United Kingdom.
Very sadly, a further 11 service men have given their lives, including, I am sorry to say, a UDR soldier who was killed earlier today, in the counter-terrorist operations that are conducted with skill and great determination in Northern Ireland. I know that all hon. Members will applaud the consistent standards of excellence shown by our armed services throughout the world. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), who opened the debate after my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement, referred to the Opposition's policy on chemical weapons. He made an important statement of policy when he said that there would be no deployment of chemical weapons to the United Kingdom under any circumstances. In reality, that means that the Labour party is eliminating the option for all time and in all future circumstances, which cannot possibly be foreseen, of giving the people of this country the defence of a chemical deterrent against the massive chemical capability or the Soviet Union, which can reach any western European country, including our own. I believe that that is an irresponsible position to take.
I shall give way to my hon. Friend a little later. I want to make further progress.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) made some pertinent points about the regional aspects of arms control. The right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley), supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill) and the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), gave us his strong views in favour of the repeal of section 10 of the Crown Proceedings Act. It is an extremely difficult issue, with some important implications. There are two sides to it. I doubt that the provision would have lasted 40 years on the statute book under successive Governments if there had not been a strong case for it, although the right hon. Gentleman has advanced arguments against it. I assure the right hon. Gentleman, as we have recently said, that we are trying to complete the review as quickly as possible. It is well advanced.
The right hon. Gentleman raised the issue of Mr. Meredith and asked what guidance is given in relation to section 10 and recruitment. I should like to look further into those points. I shall, of course, be glad to write to him about them.
My hon. Friends the Members for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) and for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) gave us the benefit of their recent visits to the Falklands. I am grateful to them for giving the House their first-hand reactions. I accept their points about the importance of mail in relation to morale, the issue of the Falkland Islands pay rules and possible delays in the receipt of World Cup videos. I assure my hon. Friends that I shall look personally at those matters when I am in the Falklands in a few weeks' time.
The hon. Members for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) and for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) made a number of detailed points about Mr. Levene's evidence to the Select Committee of Defence. It is not possible within the compass of this debate to produce detailed responses to the hon. Gentlemen's points, but I assure them that they will be considered carefully by the Department.
If I may, I should like to continue a little further.
The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West raised the issue of apprenticeships. I assure him that contractors for Rosyth are required to set out in their responses to the invitation to tender proposals for apprenticeships, and they will be carefully considered by the Government.
I shall continue just for the moment. I am going to reply to those hon. Members who have spoken in the debate.
The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) referred to a number of aspects of the equipment programme——
—a number of points on various aspects of the defence programme. I very much welcome his support for the European fighter aircraft programme.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker —[Hon. Members: "Stand up."]—I am standing up. I hesitate to raise a point of order and interrrupt the Minister's speech, but serious points have been raised during the debate concerning the commercial relationships between the Ministry of Defence and large companies. The House and those companies should not have to wait any longer. The Minister has had ample opportunity to consult the civil servant, who is within the precincts, to get this vital information.
I say to the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West that I have done my best to try to answer the points raised by many other hon. Members apart from him. I am trying to do my best to respond in the limited time available.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) made a characteristically individualistic and witty contribution. I think that I would agree more with his comments about the Labour party than with his comments on the implications of the Government's defence policy, but we certainly enjoyed his wit.
The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) made some important points on racial discrimination. He asked for a clear statement of policy on that issue. I am glad to draw his attention to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces on 12 June, in which he said:
No form of racial discrimination is tolerated either in recruitment or subsequent employment. Any complaint of racial discrimination brought by a member of the Army concerning his treatment in the service would be fully investigated under the redress of grievances procedures." [Official Report, 12 June 1986; Vol. 99, c.292.]
My hon. Friend the Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) spoke strongly in favour of the early flotation of the royal ordnance factories. He made a strong plea for them not to be broken up and for an early decision on the 7th Challenger Regiment. He addressed his comments to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State who was in his place and who I am sure will have taken careful note of the points made.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made it clear that budgetary pressures will necessitate some difficult decisions. In his speech yesterday he said that some items are having to be deleted from the equipment programme and others are having to be delayed. However, he also made the point that we are pressing ahead with improvements all the time. We are constantly making judgments on priorities and adjusting the programme accordingly.
Against that background, the House will be glad to know that among the items for which we have made financial provision for the first time are the replacement of our amphibious shipping, Rapier for the United Kingdom-Netherlands force, an area defence missile for the next generation of surface ships, a Sea Harrier attrition buy, a 7th Challenger Regiment, and additional attrition buys of Tornado. I stress that that all represents financial provision rather than firm commitments, but to present a balanced picture the House should be aware that we are engaged in a continuous process of trying to reallocate funds in relation to changing priorities. I believe that the House will welcome those arrangements.
In the provision for the replacement of our amphibious forces, how much has been provided for, and does that include a new Commando carrier? If so, is it to be a converted merchant vessel, or a properly defended one?
I cannot give that degree of detail to my hon. Friend. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement said, those are all details which will have to await the decision which will be taken later this year.
The House has spent a considerable amount of time considering the future of the British deterrent. The first point that must be made is that the decision whether there should be a successor system to Polaris has to be taken now if Britain is to have continuity of a viable deterrent in the 1990s. That decision cannot be delayed, and I was glad that the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) agreed with that view in his speech yesterday.
It is totally unrealistic to think that one can get a viable replacement system researched, developed, manufactured, tested and fully into service inside 10 years, as the alliance seems to think, let alone the European strategic cruise missile system which the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) seems to want Britain to have. That system is not on the drawing board in any European country, and it is wholly unrealistic to think that one can delay that decision.
The second point is that one cannot expect to deter a nuclear threat with conventional forces today any more than the Japanese could in 1945. The only deterrent to nuclear is nuclear. Therefore, the basic argument advanced by the Opposition that we should simply scrap our nuclear capability and replace it with conventional capability does not stand up in defence terms. There is perhaps some doubt whether the Opposition are determined to use the whole of the Trident programme for conventional defence. We heard yesterday from my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) has apparently said that the Trident money would be used in the Health Service.
The Opposition Front-Bench spokesman's commitment that the Labour party would use the Trident money for defence purposes would purchase, in the front line, perhaps three additional armoured divisions. To put that into perspective, the Warsaw pact in peace time on the central front has nearly 60 armoured divisions, and that figure would be increased rapidly to more than 90 by readily available reinforcements. Against that background, it is clear that we would achieve only a relatively marginal increase in conventional capability, even if we used all the money involved for conventional purposes.
My third point—here I agree with the hon. Member for Devonport—is that the British people are entitled to know the views of all political parties on whether Polaris should he replaced. The right hon. Gentleman has been admirably clear on this point, and he has made his apologies for his absence tonight. He has said bluntly that he believes that we should remain a nuclear weapons state. That does not seem to be entirely in accord even with the Members of the SDP. Indeed, the president of the SDP, Mrs. Shirley Williams, with her characteristic decisiveness, said:
The present policy of the SDP is that the party is willing to replace Polaris under certain circumstances, but is not irrevocably committed to doing so.
That is the present position of the president of the SDP, but I agree with the right hon. Member for Devonport that the matter must be made clear.
The policy of the official Opposition has the merit of being clear. The right hon. Member for Llanelli said that the Polaris force will be scrapped in quick time, "in the first phase," as he described it, of the implementation of Labour's non-nuclear policy. However, we understand that the scrapping of Polaris by the Labour Government —if there is a Labour Government, and we believe that that is improbable with their defence policy—would be accompanied by a little arms control agreement between Britain and the Soviet Union.
We read that during his recent visit to India the Leader of the Opposition said that a Labour Government would take up Mr. Gorbachev's offer to negotiate separate nuclear weapon cuts with Britain. The key point was that Mr. Gorbachev was now prepared to talk in terms of equivalent missile-for-missile reductions. What a brilliant and masterly arms control agreement that would be. It would certainly be brilliant and masterful for the Soviet Union. It would leave the Russians with 880 strategic missiles at sea and 1,398 strategic missiles on land, and Britain with precisely zero. Only the Opposition could have fallen hook, line and sinker for that one.
It would be completely irresponsible to scrap our Polaris deterrent when it has some years of life left in it, and when it has just been modernised with Chevalme, following the wish of the Labour Government. It would be irresponsible to scrap it when it has been confirmed once again at the most recent meeting of the NATO nuclear planning group that our strategic deterrent is fully supported by our NATO partners. The Labour party's commitment to scrap our Polaris force immediately is completely irresponsible in defence and economic terms.
I turn to the position of the so-called alliance on this issue. I do not believe that the Liberal party's position is any different from that of the official Opposition — [Interruption.] As the Daily Mirror said:
Labour would have us throw away our gun now. The Liberals would wait until it was useless.
That more or less sums up the situation.
I see that the Leader of the Liberal party has recently been lashing out at the media over their ignorance of defence matters compared with his deep understanding of them. Last month he wrote:
Some of the more ignorant commentators have portrayed Britain without Polaris as being virtually defenceless. They forget, for instance, that we already have nuclear armed Tornado squadrons.
If the right hon. Gentleman believes that the Tornado aircraft represent any sort of deterrent to the massive Soviet strategic nuclear capability, he should direct his charge of ingnorance, not at the commentators but at himself.
The Liberal party has again and again said that it does not wish to replace Polaris. It is on the side of the one-side disarmers in this debate, and it should have the gumption to say so. The other part of the so-called alliance is hooked on to the right policy of ensuring that our country remains a nuclear capable power, but is hooked on to a wholly incorrect way of implementing it.
Perhaps the Minister will now clarify a point that I asked him to make clear earlier. The questions that I and my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) asked in the Select Committee need only yes or no answers. It is extremely important that we should have those answers now. The Minister has had ample time during the debate to find out the answers, especially as the official responsible has been within the precincts of the House.
The hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) have raised some detailed points in relation to evidence given to the Select Committee. They need to be looked at in far more detail than is possible this evening.
Although the SDP is right to have adopted a policy of replacing Polaris, it has chosen the wrong means of implementing it. Sea-lauched cruise missiles are not more, but less, cost-effective. The alternative put forward by the SDP is either a deterrent that is below the minimum threshold and thus will not deter, or a deterrent which, if it is to be credible, will cost much more than Trident.
I notice that the leader of the Liberal party, in a recent interview on "Weekend World", was asked how he viewed his relationship with the right hon. Member for Devonport. He replied:
Divorce never but murder occasionally".
If the right hon. Member for Devonport was here, I would say that if he wants to save his skin and ensure his physical protection, a minor adjustment in his defence policy that takes it a little further in our direction would enable him to do that.
The other major issue to have surfaced in the debate is the future of the American bases in this country. The Labour party's commitment is one of the most damaging and serious defence commitments to be made by any political party in this country. It will have serious consequences in Europe, where it may set in train a process whereby other countries are tempted to follow suit, but the implications for Capitol hill and for Washington itself may be much more significant. Many Americans will say that if Britain or Europe does not want them, they should start to pull out. They will start to pull out. They will pull out not only their nuclear but also their conventional assets. The policy of the official Opposition will undermine NATO and will seriously reduce the defence capability of this country———
|Division No. 237]||[10 pm|
|Abse, Leo||Campbell, Ian|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Canavan, Dennis|
|Anderson, Donald||Carter-Jones, Lewis|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Clarke, Thomas|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Clay, Robert|
|Ashton, Joe||Clelland, David Gordon|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Clwyd, Mrs Ann|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Cohen, Harry|
|Barnett, Guy||Coleman, Donald|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Conlan, Bernard|
|Bell, Stuart||Cook, Frank (Stockton North)|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Corbett, Robin|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Blair, Anthony||Craigen, J. M.|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Crowther, Stan|
|Boyes, Roland||Dalyell, Tam|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I)|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Deakins, Eric|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Dewar, Donald|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Dixon, Donald|
|Caborn, Richard||Dormand, Jack|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Douglas, Dick|
|Dubs, Alfred||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Meacher, Michael|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Michie, William|
|Eastham, Ken||Mikardo, Ian|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Ewing, Harry||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Fatchett, Derek||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Nellist, David|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||O'Brien, William|
|Fisher, Mark||O'Neill, Martin|
|Flannery, Martin||Park, George|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Patchett, Terry|
|Forrester, John||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Foster, Derek||Pendry, Tom|
|Foulkes, George||Pike, Peter|
|Fraser, J. (Norwood)||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Radice, Giles|
|George, Bruce||Randall, Stuart|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Raynsford, Nick|
|Gould, Bryan||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Gourlay, Harry||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Hamilton, James (M'well N)||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)||Robertson, George|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Rogers, Allan|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Rooker, J. W.|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Rowlands, Ted|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Ryman, John|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)||Sheerman, Barry|
|Home Robertson, John||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham)||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|Hume, John||Skinner, Dennis|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Snape, Peter|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Soley, Clive|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Spearing, Nigel|
|Lambie, David||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Lamond, James||Strang, Gavin|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Straw, Jack|
|Leighton, Ronald||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Litherland, Robert||Tinn, James|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Torney, Tom|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Warden, Gareth (Gower)|
|McCartney, Hugh||Wareing, Robert|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Weetch, Ken|
|McKelvey, William||White, James|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|McNamara, Kevin||Winnick, David|
|McTaggart, Robert||Woodall, Alec|
|McWilliam, John||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Marek, Dr John||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Mr. Allen McKay and|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Mr. Chris Smith.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)|
|Alexander, Richard||Baldry, Tony|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Banks, Robert (Harrogate)|
|Alton, David||Batiste, Spencer|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Beaumont-Dark, Anthony|
|Amess, David||Beith, A. J.|
|Ancram, Michael||Bellingham, Henry|
|Arnold, Tom||Bendall, Vivian|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Benyon, William|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Best, Keith|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Bevan, David Gilroy|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Biggs-Davison, Sir John|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)||Blackburn, John|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Bottomley, Peter||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Gorst, John|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Gow, Ian|
|Bright, Graham||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Brinton, Tim||Greenway, Harry|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Gregory, Conal|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Griffiths, Sir Eldon|
|Browne, John||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Grist, Ian|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Ground, Patrick|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Grylls, Michael|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Gummer, Rt Hon John S|
|Budgen, Nick||Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Burt, Alistair||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Butcher, John||Hancock, Michael|
|Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Butterfill, John||Hannam, John|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Hargreaves, Kenneth|
|Carlisle, John (Luton N)||Harris, David|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hawkins, C. (High Peak)|
|Carttiss, Michael||Hawksley, Warren|
|Cartwright, John||Hayes, J.|
|Cash, William||Hayward, Robert|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Chapman, Sydney||Heddle, John|
|Chope, Christopher||Henderson, Barry|
|Churchill, W. S.||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)||Hickmet, Richard|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hicks, Robert|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Hind, Kenneth|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Hirst, Michael|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Colvin, Michael||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Conway, Derek||Holt, Richard|
|Coombs, Simon||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Cope, John||Howard, Michael|
|Couchman, James||Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)|
|Critchley, Julian||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)|
|Crouch, David||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Howells, Geraint|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Hubbard-Miles, Peter|
|Dicks, Terry||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Hunter, Andrew|
|Dover, Den||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward||Irving, Charles|
|Dunn, Robert||Jackson, Robert|
|Durant, Tony||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Dykes, Hugh||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Evennett, David||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||Jones, Robert (Herts W)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Fallon, Michael||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Farr, Sir John||Kennedy, Charles|
|Favell, Anthony||Key, Robert|
|Fletcher, Alexander||King, Roger (B'ham N'field)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Forman, Nigel||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Knowles, Michael|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Knox, David|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Franks, Cecil||Lang, Ian|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||Latham, Michael|
|Freeman, Roger||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Freud, Clement||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Fry, Peter||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Gale, Roger||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Galley, Roy||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)||Lester, Jim|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Lilley, Peter||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Livsey, Richard||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Rost, Peter|
|Lord, Michael||Rowe, Andrew|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|McCrindle, Robert||Ryder, Richard|
|McCurley, Mrs Anna||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Maclean, David John||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Maclennan, Robert||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Malins, Humfrey||Shersby, Michael|
|Maples, John||Shields, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Marland, Paul||Silvester, Fred|
|Marlow, Antony||Sims, Roger|
|Mates, Michael||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Speed, Keith|
|Mellor, David||Speller, Tony|
|Merchant, Piers||Spencer, Derek|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Squire, Robin|
|Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Stanley, Rt Hon John|
|Mitchell, David (Hants NW)||Steen, Anthony|
|Moate, Roger||Stern, Michael|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Moore, Rt Hon John||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton S)||Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Stokes, John|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Sumberg, David|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Mudd, David||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Neale, Gerrard||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Nelson, Anthony||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Neubert, Michael||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Newton, Tony||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Normanton, Tom||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Norris, Steven||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Onslow, Cranley||Thurnham, Peter|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Ottaway, Richard||Tracey, Richard|
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)||Trippier, David|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Patten, Christopher (Bath)||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn)||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Viggers, Peter|
|Pawsey, James||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Penhaligon, David||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Pollock, Alexander||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Porter, Barry||Wallace, James|
|Portillo, Michael||Waller, Gary|
|Powley, John||Walters, Dennis|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Price, Sir David||Warren, Kenneth|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Watson, John|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Watts, John|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Raffan, Keith||Wheeler, John|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Whitfield, John|
|Rathbone, Tim||Whitney, Raymond|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Wolfson, Mark|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Wood, Timothy|
|Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Yeo, Tim|
|Young, Sir George (Acton)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Younger, Rt Hon George||Mr. Carol Mather and|
|Division No. 238]||[10.15 pm|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Alexander, Richard||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.|
|Amess, David||Dover, Den|
|Ancram, Michael||du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward|
|Arnold, Tom||Dunn, Robert|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Durant, Tony|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Dykes, Hugh|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)||Evennett, David|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Eyre, Sir Reginald|
|Baldry, Tony||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Fallon, Michael|
|Batiste, Spencer||Farr, Sir John|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Favell, Anthony|
|Bellingham, Henry||Fletcher, Alexander|
|Bendall, Vivian||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Benyon, William||Forman, Nigel|
|Best, Keith||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Fox, Sir Marcus|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Franks, Cecil|
|Blackburn, John||Fraser, Peter (Angus East)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Freeman, Roger|
|Bottomley, Peter||Fry, Peter|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Gale, Roger|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Galley, Roy|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Bright, Graham||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Brinton, Tim||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Browne, John||Gorst, John|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Gow, Ian|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Greenway, Harry|
|Budgen, Nick||Gregory, Conal|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Griffiths, Sir Eldon|
|Burt, Alistair||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)|
|Butcher, John||Grist, Ian|
|Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam||Ground, Patrick|
|Butterfill, John||Grylls, Michael|
|Carlisle, John (Luton N)||Gummer, Rt Hon John S|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)|
|Carttiss, Michael||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Cash, William||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Hannam, John|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hargreaves, Kenneth|
|Chope, Christopher||Harris, David|
|Churchill, W. S.||Harvey, Robert|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)||Hawkins, C. (High Peak)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hawksley, Warren|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hayes, J.|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Hayward, Robert|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Cockeram, Eric||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Colvin, Michael||Heddle, John|
|Conway, Derek||Henderson, Barry|
|Coombs, Simon||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Cope, John||Hickmet, Richard|
|Couchman, James||Hicks, Robert|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Critchley, Julian||Hind, Kenneth|
|Crouch, David||Hirst, Michael|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)||Normanton, Tom|
|Holt, Richard||Norris, Steven|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Onslow, Cranley|
|Howard, Michael||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Ottaway, Richard|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Hubbard-Miles, Peter||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Hunt, David (Wirral W)||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Pawsey, James|
|Hunter, Andrew||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Pollock, Alexander|
|Irving, Charles||Porter, Barry|
|Jackson, Robert||Portillo, Michael|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Powley, John|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Price, Sir David|
|Jones, Robert (Herts W)||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Key, Robert||Raffan, Keith|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'field)||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Knowles, Michael||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Knox, David||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Lang, Ian||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Latham, Michael||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Lawler, Geoffrey||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Rost, Peter|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Rowe, Andrew|
|Lester, Jim||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)||Ryder, Richard|
|Lilley, Peter||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Lord, Michael||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|McCrindle, Robert||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|McCurley, Mrs Anna||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)||Shersby, Michael|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Silvester, Fred|
|Maclean, David John||Sims, Roger|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Malins, Humfrey||Speed, Keith|
|Maples, John||Speller, Tony|
|Marland, Paul||Spencer, Derek|
|Marlow, Antony||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Mates, Michael||Squire, Robin|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Stanley, Rt Hon John|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Steen, Anthony|
|Mellor, David||Stern, Michael|
|Merchant, Piers||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)||Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Stokes, John|
|Mitchell, David (Hants NW)||Sumberg, David|
|Moate, Roger||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Moore, Rt Hon John||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton S)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Mudd, David||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Neale, Gerrard||Thurnham, Peter|
|Nelson, Anthony||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Neubert, Michael||Tracey, Richard|
|Newton, Tony||Trippier, David|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|van Straubenzee, Sir W.||Wheeler, John|
|Vaughan, Sir Gerard||Whitfield, John|
|Viggers, Peter||Whitney, Raymond|
|Wakeham, Rt Hon John||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Waldegrave, Hon William||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Walker, Bill (T'side N)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Wall, Sir Patrick||Wood, Timothy|
|Waller, Gary||Yeo, Tim|
|Walters, Dennis||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Wardle, C. (Bexhill)||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Watson, John||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Watts, John||Mr. Carol Mather and|
|Wells, Bowen (Hertford)||Mr. Robert Boscawen.|
|Alton, David||Clwyd, Mrs Ann|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Freud, Clement|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Hancock, Michael|
|Beith, A. J.||Howells, Geraint|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)|
|Caborn, Richard||Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Canavan, Dennis||Kennedy, Charles|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Cartwright, John||Lamond, James|
|Clay, Robert||Lewis, Terence (Worsley)|
|Livsey, Richard||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|McKelvey, William||Shields, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Maclennan, Robert||Skinner, Dennis|
|Madden, Max||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Wainwright, R.|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Wallace, James|
|Meadowcroft, Michael||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Nellist, David||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Penhaligon, David||Mr. Jeremy Corbyn and|
|Pike, Peter||Mr. Harry Cohen.|