AUKUS - Statement

– in the House of Lords at 3:07 pm on 16th September 2021.

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Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence 3:07 pm, 16th September 2021

My Lords, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place:

“Mr Speaker, with permission I will make a Statement about our friendship with Australia and the United States and the security of the Indo-Pacific.

Yesterday I joined President Biden and Prime Minister Morrison to create a new trilateral defence partnership between our countries, known as AUKUS. Australia has, for the first time, taken the momentous decision to acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines and has asked for our help in achieving this ambition. I am delighted to tell the House that we have agreed to this request and we shall place the UK’s expertise in this field, amassed over decades, at the assistance of our Australian friends.

The first task of AUKUS will now be an 18-month trilateral collaboration to determine the best way of delivering advanced nuclear submarines for Australia, emphasising, of course, that they will be powered by nuclear reactors, not armed with nuclear weapons, so the nuclear non-proliferation treaty places no prohibition on this work.

The House will understand how Australia’s future possession of this capability will help to safeguard the peace and security of the Indo-Pacific. Nuclear submarines are the capital ships of our age, propelled by an effectively inexhaustible source of energy, allowing them to circumnavigate the world without surfacing, and deriving oxygen and fresh water from the sea around them. While on patrol, they keep silent watch over vast expanses of ocean, protecting shipping, gathering intelligence, deterring adversaries, and guarding the trade routes on which our livelihoods depend.

To design, build, operate and then safely decommission a nuclear submarine ranks among the most complex and technically demanding enterprises yet devised. Only six nations possess nuclear-powered submarines, and to help another country join this tiny circle is a decision of the utmost gravity, requiring perhaps the closest relationship of trust that can exist between sovereign states.

I hope I speak for the House when I say that I have no hesitation about trusting Australia, a fellow maritime democracy, joined to us by blood and history, which stood by Britain through two world wars, at immense sacrifice. Today, the UK and Australia defend the same interests, promote the same values and face the same threats: we are as closely aligned in international policy as any two countries in the world, and one of the great prizes of this enterprise is that Australia, the UK and the United States will become inseparable partners in a project that will last for decades, creating opportunities for still greater defence and industrial co-operation.

The integrated review of foreign and defence policy described Britain’s renewed focus on the Indo-Pacific, a region that is fast becoming the geopolitical centre of the world—ever more important for British trade and therefore British jobs and British livelihoods. If there was ever any question about what global Britain’s tilt towards the Indo-Pacific would mean in reality, or what capabilities we might offer, this partnership with Australia and the United States provides the answer.

It amounts to a new pillar of our strategy, demonstrating Britain’s generational commitment to the security of the Indo-Pacific and showing exactly how we can help one of our oldest friends to preserve regional stability. It comes after the United Kingdom’s success in becoming a dialogue partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and our application to join the trans-Pacific free trade area.

At the same time, this project will create hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the UK, including in Scotland, the north of England and the Midlands, reinforcing our industrial base and our national scientific expertise, exemplified by the British companies participating in this week’s Defence and Security Equipment International event.

A nuclear submarine programme exists within a different realm of engineering from any other marine project, requiring a mastery of disciplines ranging from propulsion to acoustics. In these fields and many others, we will have a new opportunity to strengthen Britain’s position as a science and technology superpower, and, by generating economies of scale, this project could reduce the cost of the next generation of nuclear submarines for the Royal Navy, helping us to renew our own capabilities. While our partnership will begin with nuclear-powered submarines, now that we have created AUKUS, we expect to accelerate the development of other advanced defence systems, including in cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and undersea capabilities. This partnership will open a new chapter in Britain’s friendship with our closest allies, help to safeguard the security of the Indo-Pacific, create jobs at home and reinforce our country’s place at the leading edge of technology. I commend this Statement to the House.”

Photo of Baroness Smith of Basildon Baroness Smith of Basildon Shadow Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office, Constitutional and Devolved issues) 3:12 pm, 16th September 2021

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement today. I am sure I am not alone in welcoming the fact that the Statement was actually repeated, rather than our just jumping into questions on it. In thanking her for being here—I know she has made considerable efforts to do so—perhaps I may say that it is disappointing that the noble Baroness the Leader was not able to be present for the prime ministerial Statement. In fairness to her, she said that she could be here for the end of today’s business, but I think it is much better that we have it earlier on, and I am grateful to the Minister that we can do so.

I have said many times at this Dispatch Box that the first duty of any Government is the security and safety of its citizens at home and abroad. International co-operation and strategy is essential to achieving that. Given that many on these Benches, and indeed across your Lordships’ House, have long called for closer co-operation with our democratic allies, we all hope that this presents an opportunity to put that principle into practice. By sharing information, intelligence and resources, we should have the capacity to enhance security.

In their integrated review, the Government identified the region as being at the

“centre of intensifying geopolitical competition with multiple potential flashpoints”.

Assuming that that is the driver for this partnership, it would be helpful to hear from the Minister more detail about what this agreement means in practice and how it fits with—and what is—the Government’s broader strategy. There are also implications for at least two other countries outside this partnership: the French, following what is now their previous submarine procurement arrangements with the Australian Government; and for our relationship with China, as illustrated not least by the comments of its Foreign Ministry this morning.

The Government have now termed China as a systemic competitor and have recognised its military assertiveness, but they also want the UK to maintain a strong commercial relationship with the country. As we need to work together on key global issues, such as climate change, and with COP 26 just six weeks away, this could not be more important. It is clear to everyone that, without a diplomatic strategy and enhanced diplomatic skills, those goals will come into conflict.

I do not know whether the Minister has yet had the opportunity to read the Lords’ International Relations and Defence Committee report from last week, but it gave us a clear warning that:

“Current levels of China expertise within Government and the civil service are insufficient when compared to the ambitious agenda and the tilt to the Indo-Pacific”.

What are the Government doing to change that? I am sure that the Government have also considered how they can ensure that the AUKUS partnership increases, rather than decreases, our ability to influence China. If there is any detail, or at least reassurance, the Minister can provide on that, it would be helpful.

There are still questions about exactly what our role will be in this partnership. According to the White House, the US sees the partnership as an opportunity to

“leverage expertise from the United States and the United Kingdom, building on the two countries’ submarine programs to bring an Australian capability into service at the earliest achievable date.”

The Minister alluded to this in the Statement, but is there anything more she can say about what UK expertise will be used in this programme? For those of us who are glued to Sunday night television, watching “Vigil”—for those who are not aware, it is about a murder on a nuclear-powered submarine—we just hope that life does not imitate fiction. As an immediate priority, the focus will be on delivering nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. With the expectation to develop other defence systems, including cyber, AI and quantum computing, will this time be used to identify other areas where the UK can contribute?

The Prime Minister’s commitment that this pact will create hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the UK is welcome, but it would be helpful to understand exactly what those jobs will be. We need to know what jobs will be created and where they will be based, because we need to know what skills will be required. Whatever defence contracts result from the announcement, we need to make sure the UK gets its fair share of well-paid, highly skilled jobs within the defence sector. We need to be preparing now to ensure we take advantage of any opportunities available.

To get maximum benefit, we also need to secure our defence supply chains. The Minister will be aware that, recently, there have been a number of attempted takeovers of British defence companies by US organisations. The potential takeover of Ultra Electronics, which provides the control systems for Trident submarines, was referred by the Government to the CMA just last month. Can she explain how she thinks this new partnership will impact on such deals?

Finally, I just want to make the point that, with new international security partnerships, we should never forget or in any way diminish our long-standing relationship with our allies. NATO remains our most important strategic alliance. It has delivered peace and stability in Europe for more than 70 years. That stability in our immediate neighbourhood must always take precedence.

Can the Minister confirm whether any resources will be redirected from western Europe to the Pacific as a result of this new agreement? Can she also say something about what strategy the Government have to protect our bilateral relationships with allies who have raised concerns about the partnership? The Five Eyes sharing arrangements remain critical to our security, and I hope today she is able to confirm that we will act to ensure that AUKUS will not lead to a two-tier alliance or weaken our arrangements for intelligence-sharing capacity.

I hope the whole House will welcome this announcement and new partnership, but the agreement alone will not be enough to achieve the stated mission. The onus is now on the Government to ensure that the security pact allows us to better respond to emerging threats and better protect the existing alliances, but also ensure that we make the most of the economic opportunities for our defence industry.

Photo of Baroness Smith of Newnham Baroness Smith of Newnham Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

My Lords, my welcome to the AUKUS announcement is possibly slightly more muted than that of the other noble Baroness, Lady Smith. Clearly, co-operation with the United States and Australia is important and, as the Statement said, clearly this is supposed to be part of global Britain and the tilt to the Indo-Pacific. However, could the Minister explain to the House how security concerns in the Indo-Pacific are more relevant and important to the United Kingdom than security concerns in our own region? We need to pay particular attention to the question of our relationship with our European partners, in particular with France. Could the Minister tell the House what conversations the Prime Minister might have had with President Macron, or what conversations the Foreign Secretary—if there was one in post at the right time—might have had with the French Foreign Minister ahead of this announcement?

Clearly, the response from the other side of the channel has been one of deep frustration. While on a business level it might be entirely appropriate for us to work with the Australians to deliver the nuclear-powered submarines that they apparently want, if that means that we are damaging our long-standing and vital relationship with France, that is somewhat unfortunate. We might have left the European Union and changed some of our relationships with our European partners, but that does not change our own fundamental security concerns and questions. As the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, said, our other traditional alliances are important. Did the Government take them into consideration when making this announcement?

Beyond that, clearly it is important to look at our defence industry. I realise that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, might raise her hands or look up in horror but I attended DSEI this week, where I had the opportunity to talk to some British businesses which are indeed absolutely passionate about being able to export. They are small and medium-sized enterprises for whom the opportunity to work with allies, whether from Europe, the USA and Australia, is important. I therefore pay tribute to those companies. In the original Statement the Prime Minister mentioned them; have the Government thought through how supply chain issues and working with SMEs might be supported by the initiative announced last night? Clearly, there are some areas where there are opportunities.

I have a final point of concern. The American approach to leaving Afghanistan left the United Kingdom unable to look after some of the people we might have wanted to repatriate. It seemed rather redolent of Suez, when we could not rely on the United States or the Commonwealth and we were closest to France. How has the world changed so that AUKUS is now the right answer to British security concerns?

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My Lords, I thank both noble Baronesses, Lady Smith, for their contributions—it is a pleasure to address both of them. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, that my noble friend Lady Evans is extremely sorry not to be here. She found it difficult to avoid an impossible diary conflict between times suitable for the usual channels and times suitable for the House. I realise that I am a very inadequate and poor substitute but I am pleased to be standing here with pride on behalf of the Government—or at least just now, which is the relevant phrase at the moment. I shall do my best to respond to the points raised.

First, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, for her welcome of the development. I think that, universally, this has been regarded as a positive development, for the United Kingdom, for the Indo-Pacific area and for our relationships, particularly with Australia, the United States and, of course, our regional partners in the area.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, asked me what this agreement means in practice, and I will do my best to slightly fill that out. It will strengthen our collective ability to ensure our security and defence interests. We will enhance the development of joint capabilities and technology sharing and will foster deeper integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases and supply chains, which I know the noble Baroness was concerned about. I can say that it was also anticipated that AUKUS—as a Scot, I keep thinking of, “Och, it’s great—it’ll be fine” but I know that is somewhat unclear for this Chamber. I can say that it will promote a significant increase in other aspects of Australia-UK-US defence collaboration, with early focus on artificial intelligence, cyber capabilities, quantum computing and additional undersea capabilities. This could create hundreds of additional highly skilled scientific and engineering roles across the UK and secure further investment in some of our most high-tech sectors. That was an area in which, rightly, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, expressed an interest.

The noble Baroness also raised our relationship with China and indicated that she felt there was a perception that there could be a conflict between our diplomatic and defence strategies. I humbly suggest that that is not the case, and it is important that we put all this in context. Yes, this is about the long-standing and deepening defence and security relationship between the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. Both are trusted allies that share our vision of the world and the international order in which free societies can flourish, and Australia has one of the largest maritime domains in the world. However, that is not exclusive of or inimical to a good or a positive relationship with China. We have been very clear that we want our relationship with China to be mature, positive and based on mutual respect and trust. I suggest to the Chamber that there is considerable scope for constructive engagement and co-operation but, importantly, as we strive for that positive relationship, we will not sacrifice either our values or our security. So, on the one hand we have a defence partnership that we are discussing this afternoon, which is positive and helpful to the geopolitical character of the Indo-Pacific but, on the other, we recognise that China is an important member of the international community. Its size, rising economic power and influence make it an important partner in tackling the biggest global challenges, and this provides enormous scope for positive, constructive engagement. However, as I say, where we have concerns, we raise them, and where we need to intervene, we will do so.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, asked how this will help us to influence affairs in the Indo-Pacific. I suggest that it is reflective of the strength of partnership we have. Our record in the Indo-Pacific area is already proven; we recently had the carrier strike group in the area, which was very well received, and we have carried out joint exercises with a number of countries, not least Australia. That is all part of reassuring south-east Asia that our interest in and commitment to the region and the area are real—not in some provocative, bellicose fashion but in a genuinely constructive fashion where we want to influence. Interestingly, I detect that that is exactly how our friends and partners in that region see the United Kingdom and our role. It is worth remembering that the genesis of what we are discussing this afternoon was Australia extending an invitation to the United Kingdom and the United States; it is interesting that it felt confident and impelled to do that. That is a very positive reflection on the United Kingdom and that is why the United States and the United Kingdom responded to that invitation. All this is therefore part of a holistic approach to the region, which is certainly about helping to create stability and support values.

The noble Baroness mentioned the Sunday night drama “Vigil”, which has certainly gripped my attention, although I emphasise that I regard it as a drama with a degree of dramatic licence. Nonetheless, it has good acting but we can all understand that the reality is somewhat different. The noble Baroness asked whether we were confident about the partnership and what we brought to it—what are our skills and experience in this? I observe simply that we have built and operated world-class nuclear-powered submarine capability for more than 60 years. So we bring deep expertise and experience to this partnership, not least, for example, through the work carried out by Rolls-Royce near Derby and BAE Systems in Barrow.

The noble Baroness also raised the specific issue of skills and jobs, to which I have alluded briefly. We anticipate that this partnership, particularly in phase 1—what is to happen in trilateral discussions over the next 18 months—will be an important contributor to skills and jobs.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, echoed by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, also raised the role of NATO. That is a legitimate question. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, also asked: what about our regional partners in the area? These are important questions. I simply want to reaffirm that this is not about NATO operations but about enhancing the long-standing defence and security relationship between the UK, Australia and the US. NATO will continue to deploy and conduct operations as deemed appropriate by the organisation’s members.

Regional partners are important to us. I am pleased to say that we have strong relationships with a number of the countries within south-east Asia, not least Japan and the Republic of Korea. These relationships are cordial and constructive and those countries will see this partnership as an enhancement to what they all want—stability and an ability to trade effectively in that important part of the globe.

Finally, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, asked about France. I reaffirm that France is an important friend and ally of the United Kingdom. We have a long-standing security and defence relationship with France that is underpinned by the Lancaster House treaty and is exemplified by our combined joint expeditionary force. We are close NATO allies and we have co-operated in areas from the Sahel to the Baltic. That is a measure of the strength of the relationship with France. We value and respect that relationship and would wish it to continue in a strong and sustainable fashion.

Photo of Lord Ricketts Lord Ricketts Chair, EU Security and Justice Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Security and Justice Sub-Committee 3:33 pm, 16th September 2021

My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s Statement. This is clearly a major strategic development and it will take time to digest all the implications of it. In the first place, it builds on a 50-year defence partnership with Australia on nuclear-powered submarines, with the United States. That is welcome. However, there are implications for our other allies, most particularly the French. The Minister is right to point to UK-French defence co-operation through Lancaster House but this agreement has been a major blow to France and it is important that we now find ways in which to work with the French as a major Indo-Pacific power themselves, and to find other ways in which to show that this partnership is not an exclusive relationship between the US, the UK and Australia. NATO allies such as Canada are also important players. Are there plans for specific proposals to put to the French to show that the western interest in Indo-Pacific security goes beyond this important new security partnership?

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The noble Lord poses a pertinent question. I think I addressed his concerns partially in my response to the noble Baronesses, Lady Smith of Basildon and Lady Smith of Newnham.

Our relationship with France on defence is not some sort of sterile picking up of the phone now and again. We are committed to building on the achievements of the first 10 years of the Lancaster House accords in the decade to come. We will continue to consult each other daily and at all levels on key international defence and security matters. It is important to observe that, although we may no longer be in the EU, we cannot fractionalise security depending on where physical boundaries fall. The strength of security in the EU, and the strength of France’s ability to contribute to that security, matters to us in the UK, and vice versa. That is mutually understood and respected, so I assure the noble Lord that, yes, we anticipate continuing a very constructive relationship with France on defence matters.

Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative

My Lords, I would like to say from these sparsely populated Benches how delighted I am with this Statement. However, I want to press my noble friend on one or two matters.

First, on the points made about France by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, and the noble Lord who just spoke, is it inconceivable that, if there were a mutual desire, France could join this alliance? That would seem to make a good deal of logistic sense. Secondly, when will this alliance be operational? How long will it take for the nuclear submarines to be built? What plans are there for command? Will it rotate between the three countries? Will the United States always be in command? I hope not. If my noble friend could throw a little light on these points, I would be extremely grateful.

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I say to my noble friend that we see this as a partnership among three important global players. It is a partnership with important and broad security objectives but its immediate raison d’être, as driven by Australia, is to seek help in being supplied with nuclear-powered submarines. That is the first focus of the partnership; it is therefore not something that it would be appropriate for France to be involved in.

On our broader relationship with France, I hope that my noble friend was assured by what I said in my earlier remarks. France is related to us and our defence relationships in a number of ways, not least on our bilateral front but also through NATO. There is a strong relationship there that we want to nurture and sustain.

My noble friend asked when the partnership will be operational. This is a technically challenging proposition. The first phrase will happen over the next 18 months and will involve a tripartite, or trilateral, discussion among the three parties to the agreement as they work out what is possible and how matters might be taken forward.

My noble friend also asked about command. This is not a military operation; it is an alliance, first of all, to help with the specific project of building and delivering nuclear-powered submarines. The submarines will be under the command of Australia, and it will have autonomy of operation over them.

Photo of Lord Browne of Ladyton Lord Browne of Ladyton Labour

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, I have had insufficient time to get my head around the implications of what I consider to be quite a momentous announcement. I assume that the Government worried those implications to death before they agreed to join, so I have two questions.

First, assuming that the method of propulsion for these boats will use highly enriched uranium—a fissile, weapons-grade material—and the safeguarding of this material will be outside the IAEA structure, who will take responsibility for that safeguarding? What steps can we ensure are taken, and how will they be reported?

Secondly, this is the first time in history that a non-nuclear arms state will acquire a nuclear submarine. What assessment have the Government and their allies made of the sort of signal this sends to our adversaries that are nuclear arms states? Have we considered that this will be interpreted by them as permission to equip all their allies and friends with nuclear submarines? If so, this has momentous consequences for the proliferation of these materials and weapons in the world.

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I thank the noble Lord. He used an interesting adjective in relation to this agreement; he described it as “momentous”, which I think is an accurate and apposite assessment. His concern about nuclear materials was basically whether we have asked our URENCO partners for permission. In the next 18 months, we will consider a wide range of technical, legal and practical issues for this project and do not want to pre-empt those findings. I reassure the noble Lord that the usual high standards of security will be maintained. The UK’s nuclear enterprise has more than 60 years of experience of delivering world-class, nuclear-powered submarine capabilities safely.

On the interesting issue of the IAEA, we have spoken to the IAEA director-general and will keep in close touch. As the noble Lord indicated, it does not have competence for nuclear defence issues, but we will engage with it as appropriate during the consultation period to ensure that we are fulfilling our obligations and to give absolute confidence that no HEU will be diverted for weapons purposes.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

My Lords, in the foreword to the integrated review, the Prime Minister says that the UK

“will make tackling climate change and biodiversity loss its number one international priority.”

The Climate Transparency Report on G20 countries ranked Australia in the bottom bracket of every climate action area, except one. The report says that the Morrison Government have no national plans to expand renewable energy, phase out coal, phase out fossil fuel vehicles, retrofit buildings or reduce deforestation. This Statement says that handing over nuclear submarines is

“a decision of the utmost gravity, requiring perhaps the closest relationship of trust”.

How can the UK trust such a criminally negligent, environmentally destructive state, given our stated top international priority and our position as the chair of COP?

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

There is broad understanding that Australia is a responsible state, and that the United States and United Kingdom, in being asked to engage with Australia in producing nuclear-powered submarines, are contributing to improving the climate, because they are replacing polluting diesel electric submarines, which do not seem a particularly attractive environmental proposition to anyone. Where I suspect the noble Baroness and I diverge is that I take the view that, where we are possessed by a multifaceted threat around the world and are only too aware of the gravity and, at times, unpredictability of that threat, it is imperative upon responsible states throughout the globe that we take appropriate action to anticipate, resist and address that threat. That is exactly what we are trying to do in the Indo-Pacific area, which is why we are pleased and proud to be a partner of Australia, along with the United States, in this new proposition of AUKUS.

Photo of Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Defence)

My Lords, since we are talking about relationships, it is important to remember that Australia and the United States have something of a special relationship because, at the request of Lyndon Johnson, Australia was willing to send Australian forces to Vietnam. I go back to France, as virtually every contributor has: it is perhaps not the substance of this announcement, but the grandiose and rather exclusive way in which it was made; it is hardly surprising that France feels somewhat alienated. Remember that France is not only our closest and largest European ally within NATO, but the other country that possesses a nuclear deterrent. The point I make is this: the relationship between France and the United Kingdom is rather delicate, at the moment, not assisted by the belligerent attitude of the Home Secretary.

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Coming from Scotland, the noble Lord will empathise with what I have to say. I have a fondness for France. We have la vieille alliance, which was very important in our history when we were falling out with our near neighbours, with whom gladly we now get on far better. Traditionally, there is a cultural affinity with France. I have explained the degree of proximity that exists in our defence relationship with France. It is not a cosmetic proximity; it is under- pinned by reality and regular dialogue. We have an agenda underpinned by the Lancaster House treaties.

The noble Lord is absolutely right that France will have been disappointed to be informed by Australia that it was not proceeding with these diesel-electric submarines. One can sympathise with France’s disappointment on hearing that news but, at the same time Australia has made a decision because, to augment the point I made to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, we need to be absolutely vigilant about being on the front foot addressing the threats of the new age. That is what Australia has identified. There is not a shadow of a doubt about using nuclear-powered submarines in the Indo-Pacific area. As the noble Lord will be aware, they travel longer and silently, they are very much more difficult to detect and they do not need to come up for oxygen, as diesel-electric submarines do. We are not in any way indifferent to the importance of our relationship with France.

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour

My Lords, I too welcome this Statement, as long as it is not just an elaborate cover-up for snatching the contract away from France and is a genuine defence co-operation, which is much needed. However, if it is a genuine defensive co-operation—the noble Baroness spoke about our long-standing defence and security co-operation—why are New Zealand and Canada, the two other members of the Five Eyes, not included? I understand that Jacinda Ardern said that she was not approached in relation to it. Why were neither New Zealand nor Canada approached if it is a genuine defence co-operation?

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I remind the noble Lord that the initium of this was an approach by Australia. Australia identified a need that it wished to address, which was to replace its diesel-electric submarines with nuclear-powered submarines. It was Australia that then decided to approach the UK and the United States to discuss this. Obviously, to go back to what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, asked about the sensitivity and why it was so under wraps, the Chamber will understand that this is a matter of great sensitivity in terms of defence integrity but also commercial sensitivity. It is widely understood why it had to remain absolutely under wraps until it was appropriate, with the agreement of the other partners, to announce it.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, that this is the initial phase to help to build these submarines. That is not something in which Australia felt either New Zealand or Canada could play a role but it felt that the United Kingdom and the United States could. As to the unfolding of a further relationship, we see that this will integrate with and enhance the Five Eyes relationship, and I guess to some extent the Five Power Defence Arrangements, which have powers other than the ones in Five Eyes. This is not simply borne out of some UK drive to get orders, it is the other way round: we received an invitation to get involved and we responded to it.

Photo of Lord McDonald of Salford Lord McDonald of Salford Crossbench

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Browne, that this is a momentous agreement and I congratulate the Government. I am learning the disadvantage of intervening late, because the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, just asked my question and the Minister just answered it.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, it appears that there are no further questions for the Minister. If I am right about that we will move to the next business as soon as people have had a chance to change places.