Bob Stewart: rose—
Bob Stewart: I hope that the Minister will forgive me, because he has almost made the point I was going to make, which is that we could involve disabled ex-servicemen as part of this system. That would be a superb way of helping them to get into decent employment in civilian life.
Bob Stewart: Will the Minister give way on that point?
Bob Stewart: In my constituency we have Bromley college, and I have been speaking to people there. Will these changes allow Bromley college to control more properly the fees that it has to charge? At the moment, it is affiliated to Greenwich university and is being forced to charge fees that it does not want to charge, which is very much against the spirit of what we are trying to do. Can it have the...
Bob Stewart: To follow up the question on rules of engagement, will the Minister ensure that ours are as robust as possible and allow people defending ships to engage the enemy, or the pirates, at the maximum distance possible, to give those ships more time to take evasive action?
Bob Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board.
Bob Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the potential for inter-ethnic conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bob Stewart: It is highly appropriate that we conduct this defence debate only a few hours after armed forces veterans gathered at their own private commemoration in the churchyard of Westminster Abbey, where His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh was present. I always wear a poppy between 1 and 11 November, but I do not need to wear a poppy—it is actually on my heart. The date I particularly...
Bob Stewart: The Minister is about to correct me, so I shall sit down and listen.
Bob Stewart: I thank my right hon. Friend. I am sure that he is correct. However, I am not trying to give exact figures; I am merely trying to draw attention to a trend, and to suggest that our forces are top-heavy.
Bob Stewart: I entirely agree, and I am sure that the Minister does as well. We must get that under control. Someone told me—again, the Minister probably has the figures at his fingertips—that the Army has some 1,700 lieutenant-colonels. If that is the case, they could man three battalions, and we have only 38 of those. I will not go into the same details about the Royal Air Force, but the principle...
Bob Stewart: That is the dilemma. We want to encourage people to stay in the Army; we want to retain the experience of senior officers; and, in the event of something that we may not care to mention—a general war—we will require those officers to expand the Army, as my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury suggested. As for the basing of our troops, I am still worried about where they will go when...
Bob Stewart: Will the hon. Lady give way?
Bob Stewart: As my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier) said, one problem is that when reservists and people who live away from their camp are deployed, their wives and families are left isolated. The Ministry of Defence is trying to find a way to ensure that people who are not on base are looked after properly, because they get extremely worried when they feel isolated. I am sure that the...
Bob Stewart: When we talk about National Guard pilots, I worry, because I wonder how much training they have to do, and whether it is different from what a regular has to do to be up to speed and to fly in combat.
Bob Stewart: The morality of war is very well set out in the Geneva convention. As long as our officers and soldiers put the convention at the front of all their actions, they will not go far wrong.
Bob Stewart: I hope the Minister will forgive me for interrupting. We also have responsibility because the Aden protectorate was, for a very long time, a responsibility of ours. I speak as someone who lived there for four years. We also have a responsibility to this part of the world because of that.
Bob Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will bring forward proposals to carry out an independent valuation of the Teachers' Pension Scheme.
Bob Stewart: Twenty-nine years ago I had the sad responsibility of identifying several friends who had been killed in circumstances similar to those on the M5 last Friday. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we must not forget those who had the sad responsibility, if not duty, of identifying their friends or family members, or the calm courage that they needed to go through that awful process?
Bob Stewart: May I reinforce what my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Arbuthnot), the Chair of the Select Committee on Defence, and my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) have said? I am quite shocked, as a new Member that, while we are fighting what looks increasingly like a guerrilla war in Afghanistan and are taking casualties, the House has not...