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Second Day's Debate

Volume 138: debated on Thursday 20 October 1988

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Order read for resuming adjourned debate on amendment to Question [19 October]:

That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1988 contained in Cm. 344.

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 Defence Estimates, Cm. 344, and in particular the Government's acquisition of Trident which is neither British nor independent, are already having a deleterious effect on the conventional defences of the United Kingdom, especially the Royal Navy surface fleet, and on related defence procurement industries; calls upon the Government to cancel Trident and use resources to secure our non-nuclear defences and to work actively for the reduction and abolition of nuclear weapons in Britain and elsewhere and the adoption by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation of a strategy of No First Use; applauds the signing of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty by the Governments of the United States and the Soviet Union and would be opposed to any nuclear arms deployment which would undermine the effectiveness of that Treaty; welcomes the progress being made towards a Chemical and Biological Weapons Ban Treaty, and the anticipated 50 per cent. cuts in ballistic missiles which would result from the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks; and further believes that the Conventional Stability Talks will provide the means whereby North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Warsaw Pact troop numbers can be asymmetrically reduced, forward troop deployments can be withdrawn, and short-range ground and air launched dual capable systems can be eliminated."—[Mr. O'Neill]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

As this debate is starting later than we had expected, because of an important statement and business questions, I appeal to the Front Benchers to make brief contributions to give a lead.

I propose a limit of 10 minutes on speeches between 7 O'clock and 10 minutes to 9. I hope that that limit will be followed by all Members who are called, in view of the late start and the great demand to take part in the debate.

5.13 pm

Although I have addressed the House as a Defence Minister before, this is the first time that I have done so without the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) sitting on the Opposition Front Bench. I regret his resignation. He is an honourable man—too honourable, I suspect for today's Labour party. As he said on BBC 2's "Newsnight" programme on 17 June this year, three days after his resignation:

"I felt it was going to be impossible for me. I would have been the person in the House of Commons who would have to draft the amendment to the defence White Paper. I would have found that difficult to do. I would have had to have stood at that Dispatch Box and argue the case. I think this year I would have found it impossible to do."
How many other members of the Labour party share the right hon. Gentleman's views on Labour's defence policy, but dare not speak out?

The amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, which the right hon. Member for Llanelli did not draft, alleges that Trident is neither British nor independent. That is, of course, nonsense. Trident missiles will be purchased from the United States, as indeed will other equipment for the submarine, and the British Government will control the operation of our strategic nuclear force. The critical factor is that a large proportion of our missiles will always be on our submarines ready for use and under the absolute control of the Government.

The hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) suggested yesterday that, with an 18-day period needed to service Trident in the United States, he hoped that the Soviet Union would give us three weeks' warning of a nuclear attack. That is also nonsense and I suspect that he knows that it is nonsense. Just in case he really wants to know what provision is being made to service Trident, let me tell him.

We regard the agreement to service Trident missiles at King's bay as very satisfactory. It will save some £770 million in capital costs as well as running costs. Of course Trident missiles will need to be returned to King's bay. but only once every seven to eight years. Our requirement is, and has always been, to maintain at least one submarine on deterrent patrol at any one time and I can assure the House that we shall have more than sufficient missiles to meet that requirement.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving us that information. Was there at any time the option of these missiles being serviced anywhere else, for example, on the Clyde at Coulport or Faslane?

As I have said, that option existed, but it would have cost us serious sums of money to set up those facilities here. Significant savings have been made by getting the servicing done at King's bay.

Before the Minister leaves the point about the independent nature of the deterrent, will he tell the House plainly whether those missiles can be targeted without the use of the worldwide American satellite system? Sir Frank Cooper, former permanent secretary to the Ministry of Defence, made it clear in the Zircon film that there would be no capacity to target those missiles unless the American satellite system were switched on for that purpose.

The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that we do not comment on the targeting of our missile systems.

I should like also to take the opportunity to make it clear that, although construction work at Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd. on the two Vanguard class submarines so far ordered was suspended during the recent strike, we do not expect that there will be any slippage in the planned in-service date.

There were a number of interesting contributions in yesterday's debate. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) reminded the House how his family had been affected by Europe's two world wars. For the hon. Gentleman's family, and indeed for many other British families, those experiences were not unusual. The hon. Gentleman and I are united in our conviction that Europe must never witness another world war. Where we part company is on how that should be ensured.

The hon. Gentleman advocates a nuclear-free world, but does he not accept that the fear of a nuclear exchange has actually preserved peace in Europe? No one can afford to start a war that may end in massive nuclear destruction.

But remove the nuclear weapons and Europe becomes free for conventional war, and more likely to experience the third world war which we are all determined to prevent. In the debate yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State described in some detail the extensive improvements that we are making to the armed forces. I should like to concentrate on the many different activities carried out by the services over the past year, in the United Kingdom, NATO, and in many other parts of the world.

If Polaris kept the peace, as the hon. Gentleman claims, why do we need Trident, which is between four and 10 times more powerful in its extermination capacity than Polaris? Why should we go to this expense when we have Polaris which, the hon. Gentleman claims, deters people from embarking on nuclear war? Why do we need Trident?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, Polaris is a relatively short-range missile system, and we cannot guarantee that it will remain undetected in the relatively shallow waters in which it has to operate. Therefore, we need a successor system which will operate much more widely.

Regular participation by United Kingdom forces in major NATO exercises not only helps to establish the sort of co-operation between allies that would be vital in war, but provides a visible demonstration of Alliance solidarity in peace. I should like to mention just a few of the many NATO exercises our forces have participated in during the year. The United Kingdom contingent of the allied command Europe mobile force, which represents some 25 per cent. of its total strength, took part in joint exercises in both Norway and Turkey. The 19,500-strong United Kingdom mobile force took part in September in a large NATO reinforcement exercise in Denmark.

At sea, a number of Royal Naval ships and submarines played their part in Teamwork 88, a major NATO maritime exercise which also involved RAF aircraft and some 5,200 Royal Marines. In the UK air defence region, RAF Jaguars, Buccaneers and Tornados were also involved in exercises Elder Forest and Elder Joust in April and earlier this month.

In Britain, a series of national exercises designed to test our current plans for military home defence has been taking place since 7 September, involving the Regular Army, elements of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, and members of the United States forces based in this country. They were joined by volunteers from the Territorial Army, the Home Service Force and by individual reservists.

I should like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all those employers who have released people to take part in these exercises. The importance of the reserve forces to our defence effort cannot be over-estimated, and it is vital that we keep these forces fully trained. I am also most grateful to those non-military organisations, including the police, fire and ambulance services, and the voluntary aid societies, who have found the time and resources to participate. Their contribution to the success of the exercises is very much appreciated.

Is my hon. Friend aware of how successful exercise Drake's Drum was? I was one of the hon. Members who were privileged to see that exercise on Salisbury plain, and we were particularly struck by the way in which the home defence forces and the territorialists quickly knitted back into the regular military pattern. Is he also aware that any attempt to move the military from Salisbury plain to the north would be heavily resisted in my constituency? The Army is welcome to stay there for as long as it wishes. The local community is well aware of the great contribution that the military makes to conservation, of the environmental impact of the Army on the south of England, and of the role that the Army takes, for example, in preserving Stonehenge, with English Heritage. I hope that my hon. Friend will have something to say about that later.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks, and I know that the Army will be particularly grateful that it is so welcome in his constituency.

The House will be aware that earlier this month the Soviet Union issued a challenge inspection request to the United Kingdom under the terms of the Stockholm document. We responded positively, and within the time limit laid down. The exercises taking place within the specified area were not included in the annual Stockholm calendar of notifiable military activities for 1988 since the troop levels in the field did not approach the 13,000 threshold for notification. The inspection lasted for 48 hours and was conducted in a professional and congenial spirit. No difficulties arose and we welcomed the opportunity to demonstrate our willingness to contribute further to such confidence-building measures.

Although our defence efforts are rightly concentrated in the NATO area, it is important not to forget our commitments and activities that lie in other parts of the world. The past year has been an important one for deployments and exercises by our forces outside the NATO area. Such deployments not only test the capabilities of our forces, but provide an excellent opportunity to renew professional links with our friends and allies throughout the world.

Even as I speak, ships of the Navy's Outback 88 task group deployment are preparing to return to the United Kingdom from the far east. The three warships and three Royal Fleet auxiliaries, headed by HMS Ark Royal, represented the Royal Navy at the fleet review in Sydney on 1 October as part of the Australian bicentennial celebrations. It was particularly appropriate, of course, that the 60-odd vessels in the review were led to their stations by HMS Sirius, the namesake of the Royal Navy ship that led the first fleet to Australia 200 years ago.

It is a matter of regret that the visit to Australia has been marred by the activities of trade unions in Melbourne which prevented HMS Ark Royal entering Melbourne harbour. As the House knows, we have a policy of neither confirming nor denying whether our ships are carrying nuclear weapons and we are not prepared to alter that policy to meet the demands of the Australian trade unions. I believe that many Australians in Melbourne were extremely disappointed not to have Ark Royal contributing to their 200th anniversary celebrations.

Earlier in their deployment, ships from Outback 88 were able to demonstrate the Government's firm commitment to the five power defence arrangements by joining our allies—Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand—in two major exercises: the maritime exercise Starfish in the South China sea, and the impressive air defence exercise Lima Bersatu. They also joined units from the Hong Kong garrison and the Sultan of Brunei's armed forces in exercise Setia Kawan, or "Loyal Friend".

The RAF also mounted an impressive overseas deployment to the far east during this, its 70th anniversary year. This deployment, nicknamed Golden Eagle, is still under way and involves four Tornado F-3 air defence aircraft, with tanker and Hercules support. The aircraft took part in exercise Lima Bersatu, and will return home via the USA, thereby completing a circumnavigation of the earth.

Sadly, there have been a number of natural disasters around the world this year. Where the services have been in a position to help, they have done so. In August, there was a severe earthquake in northern India and Nepal. The British military hospital at Dharan became the focal point of medical support for the local population, helped by emergency medical teams flown in from Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. The hospital was expanded from 70 to 250 beds and has been working non-stop over the past few weeks, treating several hundred casualties. This extra activity is now winding down, but it has been an outstanding example of the professionalism and skill of the armed forces.

In September, following the devastating passage of Hurricane Gilbert across the Caribbean, the West Indies guardship, HMS Active, sailed to the Cayman Islands and Jamaica to provide emergency relief assistance, and a team of Royal Engineers flew from Belize to Jamaica to help restore the Princess Margaret hospital, near Kingston, to working order.

Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State paid tribute to the efforts of the Royal Navy and the Armilla patrol. I shall mention in particular our mine countermeasure vessels. To date, they have discovered and destroyed 10 mines in the waters of the region. Without their efforts, ships might have been lost or seriously damaged, almost certainly with loss of life.

Western European Union partners have made a real contribution to maintaining the freedom of navigation in the Gulf and to upholding regional stability. Members have continued to co-ordinate closely over their assessments of the changing situation in the Gulf and about their plans for national naval contingents there. I am glad to inform the House that mine countermeasure vessels of Western European Union countries are currently checking a new merchant shipping route in the Gulf. This will be an important contribution to freedom and safety of navigation in those waters.

Another difficult but continuing task for our armed forces is, of course, in supporting the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the fight against terrorism in Northern Ireland. The Government are determined to carry through their efforts to restore peace and order to the Province, and all three services, including the Royal Marines, have a part to play in combating, within the rule of law, the men of violence whose aim is to destroy any hopes of peace or a normal life for the people of Northern Ireland.

The main responsibility for the military element of maintaining security in Northern Ireland rests with the Regular Army and the Ulster Defence Regiment. There are currently some 11,100 regular service personnel and some 6,300 Ulster Defence Regiment personnel in the Province.

I should like in particular to pay tribute to the Ulster Defence Regiment and the role which it plays in supporting the RUC. Since its foundation just over 18 years ago, the UDR has been continually on operations —a unique record for a regiment of the British Army. During that time, the regiment has been transformed from its original role as a part-time local defence force. Today, nearly half of the soldiers in the regiment are full-time soldiers, carrying out almost exactly the same duties as the Regular Army, but with the benefit of local knowledge and considerable experience. In over 80 per cent. of the Province, the UDR now provides the primary military support to the RUC.

A few brief details will serve to illustrate the increasing professionalism and the continuing commitment of members of the UDR. First, in the past two years, all new UDR permanent cadre officers have completed the standard military course at Sandhurst, some of them, I may say, with distinction. Secondly, from a strength of some 6,300, nearly 1,000 members of the UDR have now served for 15 years or longer under the most dangerous and stressful conditions. Thirdly, nearly 30 per cent. of the permanent cadre have previous experience with other regiments of the Regular Army, and nearly 40 per cent. in the case of officers and senior NCOs. Finally, this year alone there have been 43 awards for gallant and meritorious service in Northern Ireland made to members of the UDR, including 19 mentions in dispatches.

I believe that these figures speak for themselves in showing how the UDR has developed into a highly motivated, professional and experienced regiment of the British Army. The military value and capability of the UDR is increasingly being recognised on both sides of the water, and I applaud the special efforts that the regiment has been making recently to win the support of the whole community of Northern Ireland, which it serves with such distinction. It is a matter of regret that some members of the Catholic community are reluctant to join and that they presently form only a small element of the regiment.

The past year has, however, seen an upsurge in brutal acts of terrorism. Inevitably, this has taken its toll of members of the security forces, as well as those they work so bravely to protect. So far this year, a Royal Navy recruiting officer, 21 members of the Regular Army and 11 members of the UDR have been murdered by terrorists in Northern Ireland. Outside the Province, one soldier died in a bomb attack on Mill Hill barracks in north London. Another was killed as he drove to catch a ferry home in Ostend and three RAF personnel were murdered while off duty in Holland.

Hon. Members will recall in particular the barbarous and shameful act on 20 August this year against a bus carrying 35 off-duty soldiers from 1st Battalion the Light Infantry returning from leave to their base in Omagh. The bomb killed eight soldiers and injured 27 others. I know that the House will support me in condemning this kind of cowardly attack against young men who have chosen to serve their country.

The House will be well aware of the review of security in Northern Ireland that has been carried out. I shall not comment further on that now.

Events such as these do not, however, weaken our resolve to defeat terrorism. The campaign against the men of violence in Northern Ireland continues and some notable successes have been achieved. A significant number of terrorists continue to be arrested and charged with serious offences.

Since the beginning of the year, the security forces have also recovered nearly 500 weapons from terrorists, the highest total since 1977, over 86,000 rounds of ammunition, the highest total since 1974, and over 6 tonnes of explosives have been found or neutralised. In addition, some 300 kg of the powerful military explosive Semtex has been recovered in the Republic by the Garda.

Despite the significant recoveries that have been made by the security forces on both sides of the border, the large quantities of arms and explosives that reached Ireland in the pre-Eksund shipments still pose a serious threat. By the end of September, for example, some 400 kg of Semtex had been used by terrorists to make 160 lethal or potentially lethal devices, which were either exploded by the terrorists or made safe by the Army.

Over the past year, a considerable number of planned terrorist attacks have been successfully thwarted. Just last month, for example, three armed terrorists were intercepted at Drumnakilly in the act of attempting to assassinate the driver of a coal lorry. Hon. Members will have noted that the Provisional IRA has admitted that the terrorists were on so-called active service when they were killed. I believe that that statement speaks for itself in demonstrating the viciousness of the current terrorist campaign. The incident also demonstrates the risks that the security forces face in Northern Ireland as they try to halt the terrorists' campaign of violence and murder. Many lives have undoubtedly been saved by the bravery, vigilance and dedicated hard work of the security forces.

This vigilance needs to be constant, though, and the hard work needs to be effective. To increase the effectiveness of our counter-terrorist operations in the border area, a new brigade was formed earlier this year, with special responsibility to improve the co-ordination and direction of security force activity along the border. It will also allow the other two brigades to concentrate on areas of high terrorist activity in the rest of the Province. We continue to build on the Anglo-Irish Agreement and on the improved crossborder co-operation with the Irish security forces, which is vital to our efforts to prevent the border being exploited by terrorists.

The most telling recent example of the Provisional IRA's utter callousness when it comes to the murder of innocent civilians was the plot to detonate a massive car bomb in Gibraltar in March. Had this attempt not been thwarted, it is possible that there would have been hundreds of civilian and military casualties. I welcome the clear and conclusive verdict of the Gibraltar jury, which was reached after an exhaustive public examination of all the relevant facts. I should also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to our special forces. Because of their covert nature, very little is usually said about them. It is often forgotten that they are ordinary people with families and are no different from anyone else. They are, however, highly trained, they have to take great risks and, as a fighting force, they are the envy of the world.

In Gibraltar the SAS showed great courage and determination. They had a difficult task and they carried it out within the law. I have no hesitation in saying that they are a credit to the country and I join in my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's recent tribute to their bravery in going back to Gibraltar to give evidence at the inquest.

I must say that the Government made it clear all along that the inquest was the proper place for a full examination of the events of 6 March and that prior "trial by television" was highly undesirable. The facts as they emerged at the inquest have amply demonstrated that the television programme "Death on the Rock" was manifestly flawed with significant inaccuracies, casting a shameful slur for a number of months on the reputations of the soldiers concerned. The timing of the programme was, moreover, unjustified and prejudicial to potential jury members. I therefore very much welcome Thames Television's inquiry under Lord Windlesham into the making of the programme.

I find what the Minister says very interesting in relation to the overall debate on defence expenditure, but, as he is pursuing this matter, has the Index on Censorship been drawn to his attention? Over the years, that journal has concentrated on analysing undemocratic regimes in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world, but one of its recent editions analysed the failure of the Government to protect human and democratic rights in this country. Is he aware that that is a new departure for the Index on Censorship and that, in this respect, this country has the worst record in the West? We are increasingly finding that the Government are taking away our democratic rights step by step. It is the duty and responsibility of our defence forces to uphold democracy and not to allow the Government to undermine it.

I should have thought it was clear to any hon. Member that the people who are trying to undermine democracy here are the terrorists and that we must do everything we can to oppose their dastardly acts.

The terrorist attacks on the continent over the past year have reinforced the need for vigilance. I can assure the House that the safety of service personnel, wherever they are, is of paramount importance to this Government, and that we are taking all reasonable steps within our power to protect them. Service men and women are given regular and timely briefings on the level of the terrorist threat, and particular emphasis is put on practical steps which individuals can take to minimise the risks to their safety.

Much wider initiatives are being implemented. As I announced on 23 August, we have decided that service personnel, their families and British civilians working with British forces Germany should now use British civilian number plates on their private cars, as they do in this country. Action is well in hand to carry out this change as soon as possible. About 95,000 vehicles are involved, and to get the maximum benefit from this initiative the numbers must be issued randomly, so the change will inevitably take time. We aim, however, to complete the greater part of the changeover before the Christmas leave period begins.

I have corresponded with my hon. Friend on this issue. Would it not be wise for the Ministry to encourage service personnel in Germany to buy German cars and register them locally rather than to drive British cars with British number plates, albeit not service plates, which are readily identifiable?

I take my hon. Friend's point. Most of our service men in Germany want to buy their cars there so that they can enjoy the tax advantage of that arrangement. They then bring them back to Britain. They are under threat anyway when their cars are in bases, and we are trying to protect them when they are on the open road or coming across the Channel on the ferries.

Did the Ministry consider that the use of English number plates would identify service personnel as being fish in a different pond? Was it not considered possible to use United Nations plates, which would have allowed service personnel to enjoy tax concessions and an added degree of anonymity?

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman wishes to refer to United Nations plates or NATO plates. The use of NATO plates was an alternative that was considered, but it was thought that the IRA might decide to treat all members of NATO as targets. The cars bearing such plates would still have been identifiable when crossing the channel by ferry and on the open road away from British bases, with which we were mainly concerned.

Our primary defence commitment is, of course, NATO, and for that reason the actions of the Soviet Union are of the utmost importance. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said yesterday, a fact that needs to be faced is that the recent Soviet rhetoric has yet to be matched by substantive action. It is therefore essential for us, and for NATO, to ensure that our conventional and nuclear forces are kept up to date.

People have now seen through the arguments of CND and those of the Opposition parties. The clear lesson of the INF treaty was that success in arms control comes from being able to negotiate from strength, not from weakness. This is not nuclearphilia, cold-war mongering or sabre rattling. NATO's nuclear stockpile in Europe has been reduced by about 35 per cent. since 1979 and now stands at its lowest level for over 20 years. There can be no clearer demonstration of our determination to maintain only the minimum forces necessary for effective deterrence.

Equally, however, those minimum forces must be effective and properly structured. Weapons that are seen to be outdated or ineffective simply serve no good purpose. Let there be no mistake, therefore. Now is not the time to drop our guard. The need to ensure that our defences are effective and up to date, as this Government have been doing for the past nine years, has not now gone away, even with such an important development as the INF treaty.

My hon. Friend has just said that weapons that are outdated serve no useful purpose. Are not we reaching the stage now whereby the development of anti-tank missiles and the development of helicopter technology will render the tank a lump of metal constrained within small areas of the battlefield, totally vulnerable and irrelevant to future defence needs? If the Government, quite rightly, are going to spend money on defence, should it not be spent on aerial defence through helicopters rather than on these blundering great antiquities?

I have been aware for some time that my hon. Friend takes a jaundiced view of the future of the tank. He held the view when I was last a defence Minister about 18 months ago. His views have been taken into consideration by all those who are in the place where I work, and their view is that the tank still has a useful future.

No, I shall not give way. I must bring my remarks to an end. I have undertaken to make a short speech.

The Government's defence policy since 1979 has been clear and unequivocal. I wish I could say the same of the Opposition's policy. Yesterday, they tabled two amendments to the Government's motion. One, in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, set out what he would like Labour policy to be. The other, in the names of the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and other Members generally reckoned to belong to the hard Left of the Labour party, represents what Labour policy as agreed at the Labour party conference actually is. As usual, the Labour party is split on defence.

Let us make no mistake about this. Whether we consider the policies of the soft Left or the hard Left, they are equally dangerous and damaging to the security of the United Kingdom. Labour's defence policy has played a key role in losing it two general elections, and it looks to me as if it will sink it in the next one, too.

5.46 pm

First, I welcome the Minister's return to the Government Front Bench. I am sure that his recent stint as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister will fit him well for his post as Minister in charge of the SAS.

I join the Minister in the tributes that he has paid to our service men and women. They have played an important part in the defence of this country, and my right hon. and hon. Friends and I offer our gratitude and congratulations to all those whose professionalism and skill has contributed so much to the quality and image of our armed services. We have great regard for those who serve in Northern Ireland in most difficult circumstances. We heard last night from my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Cook) of the appalling conditions that some of our soldiers and service personnel generally have to endure, and I am sure that there may be ways of improving these conditions. I hope that the Secretary of State for Defence and the Minister will consider what my hon. Friend said and perhaps improve conditions.

We offer our condolences and sympathy to the families of those who have been killed over the past year in service for our country.

We understand that this year the Ministry of Defence begged for an extra £1·4 billion. That is money that the Secretary of State says is vital for our defence, but the claim has been turned down. We understand also that the hotel room, or bedroom, negotiations at Brighton have failed and that he has a somewhat smaller sum than that for which he argued. The right hon. Gentleman said yesterday that he was under severe financial constrictions and that he needed the additional money badly. Will he or the Minister let us know how he fared? Will one or other of them let us into the secret and tell us what the deal is so that we can comment on it? It would be interesting information. I am sure that the House would like to know the details of the deal.

The issue of Royal Ordnance sites was dealt with ably yesterday by my hon. Friends the Members for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) and for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham). They posed critical questions, none of which was dealt with either by the Secretary of State or his property adviser, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement. Perhaps the questions will be answered today. There is extreme concern about the aura of connivance, corruption and irregularity that is beginning to surround the issue. I can assure the Minister and Conservative Back Benchers that the problem will not go away. Yesterday, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement claimed that there are major offsetting costs in relation to the two sites that are being sold. I intervened to ask whether he could provide details of these costs and he replied that
"it would be a waste of time to quantify the costs."—[Official Report, 19 October 1988; Vol. 138, c. 976.]
Why would it be a waste of time to quantify the costs? Will the Minister explain the reasoning behind that ludicrous statement? Surely the costs were important in assessing value or pricing when the Ministry of Defence was selling the Royal Ordnance sites. Are we to understand that Royal Ordnance was sold without an examination of both sides of the balance sheet? Why is it a waste of time to quantify these negative costs? Surely they should have been a vital factor in assessing what the asking price should be——

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement
(Mr. Tim Sainsbury)

The hon. Gentleman has only quoted one sentence of what I said last night. I reminded him then that, when trying to quantify costs, one has first to discover what costs are being quantified—what decontamination is required, what planning permission might be available, what development costs such as access roads and sewerage might be. Those things are not known; they are uncertain, and until they have been determined the costs cannot be quantified. All that we know for certain is that they are substantial.

I have never heard so much codswallop in my life. Is the Minister suggesting that it is beyond his and his Department's wit to assess what the costs of access roads or of site development would be? Any developer who is going to develop land—whether previously developed or on a green field site—could come up with those costs. The Minister is merely illustrating his Department's incompetence in this matter.

The facts revealed in The Independent are as follows. There were two sites in the south-east, including the historic Enfield site. They were sold to British Aerospace on a valuation of £3·5 million, and are now worth £400 million. Representations were made by British Aerospace, in its desire to take over Royal Ordnance, to the effect that it would protect jobs. It has now reneged on that promise. These serious allegations strike at the heart of the Government's competence and integrity. They warrant a full and public inquiry. Will the Secretary of State or his Ministers now give the House an assurance that such a public inquiry will be held? I shall be happy to give way to them, should they want to do so. Their silence illustrates that they do not want an inquiry because of the incompetence that would be revealed—but the problem will not go away.

I also want the Minister to give us an assurance that he will co-operate fully with any Public Accounts Committee investigation into this matter. I see that he is nodding his assent, and I am glad of that. May we also have an assurance from the Minister that none of his officials who were involved in the sale will be employed by British Aerospace when they leave the MOD? Such a thing is not unknown.

In his wind-up speech yesterday the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement said that he sought to emulate Cato the Elder by using in every speech the phrase
"Value for money must be obtained"—[Official Report, 19 October 1988; Vol. 138, c. 973.]
The British taxpayer wishes that, when he sells off Royal Ordnance—and other public assets—he would espouse not "value for money" but getting "money for value"—the value of British assets which are being given away.

I want to concentrate on the management aspects of defence and of the defence economy: procurement, competition in procurement, the Government's so-called efficiency drive and the so-called monetary savings that have accrued to them from it. Those things bear directly on the operations and capability of our forces.

Procurement decisions lie at the heart of defence matters and are an area of defence that the Government do not particularly like having discussed. When pressed on such issues they retreat during discussion of the vital points behind the barricades of security or commercial confidentiality. That is why it suits them for the Opposition to have differences over the pace of nuclear disarmament. It is understandable that they should make much of those differences—one would expect nothing else from them. No one is in politics to help other parties, especially not the Conservatives, whose ethic is one of helping themselves. Our differences suit them because they shroud their deficiencies. They shroud their cut-backs, their overruns, their delays and their bad management of the defence economy. They give them an escape route from their failures. Apart from the activities of the Opposition and of some newspapers such as The Independent, discussion of the scandal of procurement mistakes, fraud and irregularities is going by default.

I hesitate to interject but thank my hon. Friend for allowing me to do so. As a member of the Select Committee on Defence I may say that we produced a substantial report on procurement and enjoyed substantial co-operation. Indeed, we could not have produced it without the MOD's co-operation. So I cannot really see how differences in the Labour party help the MOD to hide anything to do with this matter. The MOD was forthcoming in its replies, which substantiated virtually everything that the Select Committee said.

I thank my hon. Friend for his timely and helpful intervention.

While this might be excusable in some parties, it is surely not excusable in the Tory party, the party of big business. Conservatives pride themselves—we hear this every day—on being the shrewd, hard City slickers, the tough streetwise people who are capable of taking tough decisions. When the last Secretary of State for Defence was appointed, the then Minister of State said in a defence debate at the time that it was nice to have a Secretary of State who knew his way around the business world. Let us grant the Tories the fact that they are shrewd, hard City slickers, capable of taking tough decisions that affect nurses, hospitals, the sick and needy, and child benefit. But when it comes to defence they fail lamentably to take the tough, hard decisions that are required for the defence of this country.

I want to speak briefly about the Governments spending proposals, and in doing so to pay tribute to the Select Committee on Defence for highlighting much of what was wrong about these Defence Estimates. The Government say there is no need for a defence review and that all commitments and roles will be maintained—the forward defence of West Germany, the protection of the east Atlantic, the defence of the United Kingdom home base, Northern Ireland, Polaris and Trident, out-of-area operations, the Falklands garrison and sea and air bridge. But many hon. Members on both sides now say that we cannot maintain these commitments and carry out these roles without an increase in expenditure. Yet expenditure is falling in real terms. On the Government's figures it will fall by more than 7 per cent. in real terms between 1986 and 1989.

The Government gave a commitment—carried on from a commitment made in May 1977 by the Labour Government, as was pointed out yesterday by my hon Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) —to 3 per cent. growth a year in real terms. In practice we know that that 3 per cent. growth has not taken place since the Falklands episode. Defence spending has fallen considerably in recent years, it is still falling and it will continue to fall. As table 1 of the Select Committee's report on the 1988 Estimates shows, in 1979 defence as a share of GDP was 4·5 per cent. In 1987–88 it was also 4·5 per cent., but in 1990–91 it will be only 4 per cent. There has been no extra effort or allocation made by the Government. In other words, defence is receiving a diminishing share of a larger cake.

Does the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) agree that the reason the Defence Estimates have stayed the same in terms of GNP is because of the growth in the British economy? In terms of real increases in defence expenditure, the figure is substantially higher today than it was in 1979.

Yes, but in real terms the figure has fallen. [HON. MEMBERS: "No".] I will not engage in some puerile argument. I suggest that Conservative Members look at the Estimates, where it will be seen that, as a share of GDP, the amount of money being spent on defence is less than in 1979.I am glad that the Minister says that is right, and perhaps he should give a lesson to his hon. Friends.

That trend should also be viewed against a background of increasing inflation. In its observations on the buying power of the defence budget and on the relative price effect, the Select Committee observed that the budget takes no account of recent and continuing inflation. They are rises that will decrease spending in real terms over the next few years.

Another factor highlighted by the Select Committee was the generation-on-generation cost increases to which my hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan referred yesterday.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would wish to give the House the complete picture. I am sure that he would not like to have said all that he has without adding that, nevertheless, the level of defence spending today is some 20 per cent. higher in real terms than it was under the last Labour Government. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would want the complete picture to be before the House.

The figure is still 8 per cent. less than in 1984. My argument does not depend on historicial comparisons with 1979, 1945, or 1920. My comparisons are with recent history. More importantly—and it is typical of the Government and of some of their not so bright supporters to ignore this fact—the real argument is about what is to be spent in the next three or four years. Everyone will agree that defence spending is falling.

I return to my argument concerning generation-on-generation cost increases, which concerns the factor by which the cost of a new generation of defence equipment exceeds the cost of its predecessor in real terms. The Select Committee commented that,
"there is every reason to believe that it is increasing substantially."
As we know, the type 22 frigate is costing about four times as much as the Leander. That will have a significant negative effect on the Estimates, and it is one that the Government are not redressing. That is not surprising, because we see exactly the same phenomenon in the Health Service, where the Governments reaction is exactly the same. Their response, as we have heard today, is, "We're spending more money," and a refusal to acknowledge, as is demonstrated in their own figures, that they are spending a diminishing amount of an expanding GDP.

As a result, the technologies have a substantial negative effect on the rest of the Departments expenditure. That is why service men's pay, like nurses' pay, is suffering. It is also why service men, like nurses, are voting with their feet. One hon. Member who spoke yesterday made mention of the Royal Air Force pilots who are leaving to take jobs with civil airlines, and he put his finger right on the problem. Terms, conditions and pay outside are far better than those which service men currently have. The Select Committee was right to point out that awards must now be found from within the defence budget. In other words, "You can have the pay rise if the money is there to fund it." It must be a matter of great concern to right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House that the number of skilled and trained personnel of all ranks and abilities who are leaving the Royal Air Force is steadily increasing. The level of pilot loss from the Royal Air Force is causing substantial concern.

Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Defence and the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement spoke of competition for procurement. May I ask them to harden up that comment and also to remove some of the wooliness from the comments made by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement earlier. The Secretary of State does not know how much is being saved. On 30 June 1986, he stated:
"As the Select Committee rightly observed, it is, of course, difficult to quantify the precise savings that we make."
He went on to say that,
"nobody knows what we would have had to pay in the absence of competition."—[Official Report, 30 June 1986; Vol. 100, c. 714.]
The Secretary of State was right. Nobody knows what can be saved—not the Secretary of State and not the Procurement Executive. It is a farce. What the Government are claiming is not really verifiable.

We all know about MOD estimates. Presumably they can be set at any convenient level. Certainly they have been in the past. The Select Committee rumbled that fact. It stated:
"First, there is the problem of estimating what MOD would have paid for an item if it had not been competitively procured."
The permanent under-secretary of state rejected the suggestion that what may appear to be good competition might have been bad estimating. He went on to state:
"What you have to safeguard against is deliberately inflating the estimates so that the eventual figure looks good."
I must admit that the thought had occurred to us, too.

I do not believe that the Secretary of State knows what he is really saying. In the 1986 debate, he tried a little harder at a later point, when he commented:
"The introduction of competition for the supply of missile pallets,"—
and I am not sure how big or small are missile pallets—
"which we had previously bought non-competitively, has led to the price being cut by half."
I accept what was said by the Minister, and the logical conclusion of his statement—and it was his statement, not mine—is that previously we had been overcharged, either honestly or dishonestly. If that is the case—and the Secretary of State appears to be amused, so certainly he is not resenting my comments—let the right hon. Gentleman say how much of the money from that honest or dishonest fraud has been recovered. What action, if any, has been taken against the firms that overcharged? Are they still MoD contractors? Why is it that those fraud investigations are taking so long? If there is so much money to be saved, why do not the Government post-cost all non-competitive contracts instead of the miserable percentage that are currently being post-costed?

Procurement fraud is a recurring theme in the history of the British defence industry. No doubt certain villainous shipwrights attempted to defraud the taxpayer when fitting out Sir Francis Drake's fleet. More recent scandals included the excess profits made by Ferranti on open-ended contracts for the Bloodhound missiles in the 1960s. They were discovered and Ferranti was forced to make a repayment, although nobody went to prison for perpetrating that massive fraud on the British taxpayer.

In the past 12 months, the biggest potential scandal has been the possible multi-million pound frauds carried out by Marconi. The Marconi investigation has been going on for more than 12 months. There are only seven other possible frauds currently under investigation, so why is the Marconi inquiry taking so long? Is it because the number of officers in the MOD's serious crime squad is only 28? Why is that so, when there are thousands of social security investigators probing people who have defrauded the DHSS of only £5 or £10—while the big boys in the City are getting away with murder? Do the Government accept the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee that a telephone hotline be established for whistle-blowers on contract fraudsters? Have they ever paid any compensation to the whistle-blowers who have been sacked while helping to save British taxpayers millions of pounds? No.

For many people the distinction between irregularity and fraud is difficult to discern; nevertheless, the Ministry of Defence, for some peculiar reason, insists on such a difference. Over the past 14 years, the main irregularity —so we are told—has been contractors overcharging without—we have been told—dishonest intention. Between 1972 and 1985, 1,100 contracts were re-examined or post-costed, and in 114 of those cases refunds were secured, totalling approximately £30 million.

The first question that I should like to ask the Secretary of State is this: why does the MOD admit that only a small percentage of contracts are post-costed? A second and more important question is why the irregularities occurred. We are told by the Department that administrative difficulties lead to such irregularities. If that is the case, why do those administrative difficulties always result in overcharging, never in undercharging? There can never be a mistake for the benefit of the taxpayer. Mistakes are always for the benefit of big business—the friends of the Tories.

Are not the Tories a little suspicious about the fact that the contractors are always overcharging? I think that they ought to be. Mr. Peter Levene, the chief of the Procurement Executive, is suspicious; if he is, why is not the Secretary of State? Why does the Minister of State find it amusing that I should bring to his attention such gross frauds on the British taxpayer? Oh, yes, it is a very laughable position. We have just heard the Government refusing to help pensioners over the Barlow Clowes affair. They say that they cannot pay compensation to them— that they cannot recover and pay out taxpayers' money —but they will allow taxpayers to be robbed by big business.

Mr. Peter Levene has said that he feels that the penalties for overcharging are not large enough. He has said that he wants to be charged on money that the contractor has to repay. The Government refuse to implement his suggestion. Why? Why will they not act on the recommendation of their senior officer? Can the Secretary of State explain it? It is obvious that the problems of fraud and irregularity will not be cleared up by a Government who will never reveal the cosy relationship between defence contractors and the MOD, and between big business and the Tory party.

Let us leave procurement and equipment. The Government next tried to make great play of presenting an aura of efficiency, suggesting that they had saved considerably on manpower while still alleging that the services were not merely maintaining capability but extending and increasing it. The Estimates state:
"The programme"—
of manpower cuts, that is—
"will enable us to improve our front-line capability, without any increase in total manpower".
Let us have a look at that proposition. Let us examine what is happening to the Royal Navy, for example. The Government have stated that since 1981 the proportion of Royal Navy personnel serving on the front line or immediately in its support has increased to 70 per cent. From what has it increased? Was it 69·5 per cent. last year? That is a rather nonsensical statement.

I shall do so later.

The Estimates then state that the services' uniformed strength has been reduced by more than 8,000. Indeed it has: we now have 8,000 fewer sailors. That is nothing to be proud of.

I have told the hon. Gentleman that I will give way to him afterwards. If he will stop bleating I shall do so, but he really must wait until I have finished.

The Royal Navy also contains 28,000 fewer civilians. Its manpower strength has fallen by 36,000 since the Government came to power. It is shrinking in manpower as well as ships.

The hon. Gentleman is showing the House very clearly his complete ignorance of defence matters. Does he not realise that the purchase of modern, sophisticated equipment means that fewer people are required to operate it? We require fewer pilots today than were required to defend the United Kingdom 20 or 40 years ago, because we have much more expensive sophisticated equipment flown by much more highly skilled and trained individuals. Fewer people are doing a much more effective job.

I was just coming to that point, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for providing me with an introduction. I am sure that he can well remember 40 years ago.

In order to obscure the truth, the Estimates state—and now I am coming to the point that the hon. Gentleman is bleating about—
"Less manpower-intensive ships are also being introduced into the Fleet; for example, on current plans, the crew of a Type 23 will be two-thirds of that needed in a Type 22."
I am sure that the Secretary of State consulted the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) when he drew up the Estimates. But the hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that now, and neither can the Secretary of State. We are not going to let them get away with it. They have been rumbled by the Select Committee, and they are twisting and wriggling.

The past and present falls in manpower that we see in the Estimates, and which the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Tayside, North are talking about, have nothing to do with the ordering of ships. We have no type 23 frigates, and we shall not have any until next year. We shall not get the rest of them until the late 1990s. The Select Committee rumbled that. It said:
"The quotation above might have its place in the SDE 91 or 92, but it carries little conviction this year."
It does not carry much truth either. The Secretary of State ought not to produce estimates containing statements that are manifestly untrue and simply seek to obscure the truth.

No, I am afraid that my time is limited. Other hon. Members want to speak.

The same tale applies to the Army and the Air Force: cutbacks and more cutbacks, with the same allegations of increased capability and efficiency. The Select Committee is right to point out to us—I ask hon. Members to read the report—that the services are being overstretched, with commanders having to do more with less, a greater burden being imposed on individual service men, front-line manpower having to take on additional tasks and skilled men having to carry out less sophisticated ones. That is the problem of the Government's cutback in manpower. Our front-line service men have not the capability to carry out their tasks.

We would require another debate to talk about the mismanagement of procurement. The list of delays—or what the Select Committee has called "fairly widespread slippage"—is a long list indeed. Time prevents me from going into detail, but we need only look for examples to find them. There is the £288 million overspend on the Rapier, the £40 million overspend on the Harrier GR5, the £260 million overspend on the ALARM system and its slippage of several years. There is the three-year delay in bringing the Foxhunter radar into service, which has resulted in 32 Tornado fighters being put into storage. The £17 million spent on the command system was wasted, meaning that our type 23 frigates, when they actually go to sea, will not have a computer-automated command system allowing them to operate with full effectiveness.

I could go on for a long time about procurement delays, but it would be wrong for me to leave the debate without referring to the sorry plight of the merchant navy, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) referred yesterday. The Select Committee has brought the problems to the Governments attention. Suffice it to say that the merchant navy, both in ships and men, is an extremely vulnerable part of our defences.

This debate is one of the few opportunities to examine the Governments stewardship of defence matters. Once again this year the Government are talking big and acting small. The cuts, delays and mismanagement mean that our defence commitment and roles are there only in name. If we were called upon to fulfil those roles, to honour our commitments, we would be found sorely lacking. That is the main basis of the Opposition's criticism of the Government.

6.20 pm

When the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) came to the Dispatch Box I had not expected him to press for more defence expenditure. I had not expected him to criticise the shortfall in real terms in what we have been spending. I am sure that all that he has said on that will be a great help to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his colleagues when they present their dossier to the Star Chamber. His speech will be honoured in the file that is put before the Secretary of State for Energy.

Of course, it was natural and right that he should try to avoid—I shall not say "evade" because it is a bad word —the great strategic issue that has divided his party by dwelling primarily on procurement. But it was a bit of bad luck that his hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) intervened. It stuck in his hon. Friend's gullet to accept that the Government really have been quite decent in making information on procurement available to the Select Committee.

The whole subject of defence is weighty and grave. Just occasionally there is a ray of light which relieves it. I want to start my remarks by saluting the brilliant young German pilot who managed to land an aircraft in Red square. If I had to nominate anyone for the Nobel prize, he would be the one. He made monkeys out of all the top brass in the Soviet Union; and I hope that our top brass will have considered whether the same thing might have happened over here.

We have to try to reconcile two developments. There clearly has been a major change in the Soviet Union's foreign policy. General Secretary Brezhnev tried to export the internal problems of the Soviet Union by expansion. Afghanistan, Angola, Aden, Ethiopia and Nicaragua were all symptoms of that. It now seems that President Gorbachev wishes to change that policy, convinced as he has become that expansion does not solve the problems. Brezhnev used to talk about seizing the oil of the Gulf as the minerals of southern Africa. Well, that has not worked. It has proved to be a no-win operation, as Mr. Gorbachev appears to recognise.

At the same time, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out yesterday, the deployment of Soviet forces on the ground shows that they are just about the same as they were under Mr. Brezhnev—perhaps a little more sinister, because they are being modernised.

Therefore, there is a problem here. The conclusion that we must clearly draw is that our foreign policy must be as flexible as possible, seizing every nuance of improvement in what the Soviet leaders say, and even appear to do. But our defence policy must mirror and reflect exactly the situation on the ground. It may be that Mr. Gorbachev's concentration on reconstruction inside the Soviet Union will lead to disarmament. It may mean that he is prepared to beat the swords into ploughshares. But that is a slow process. Making swords, as I know from my experience in procurement, is slow, and to turn them into civil equipment is equally slow. If there is to be a real reconstruction in the Soviet Union, it will mean the transfer of its best managers and scientists from the defence industries to the civil industries.

Therefore, my right hon. Friend is right to go on as we are. There could be a reversion in the Soviet Union to the policy of externalising internal problems, and we would be fools if we built our defence policy on hopes as distinct from facts.

Even taking a hopeful view, we have to recognise that changes are not only taking place in the Soviet Union. Whatever the outcome of the American presidential elections in November, I suspect that there will be great pressure in the United States to limit its overseas commitment to Europe. I do not think that it will abandon its commitment. I do not think that it will abandon our allies. But, over the years, it has carried a disproportionate amount of the burden, and with its trade and fiscal deficits we must expect that it will reduce its effort, particularly as problems are increasing at the other end of the world—the Pacific rim—where it is, economically, financially and security-wise, as interested as it is in Europe.

Therefore, we in Europe will have to fill any gaps that may arise. This is not the occasion to go into what kind of European union we want—I shall have plenty to say on that subject in another debate—but I think that we are all agreed that there will be a European union. That comes out just as much in the Prime Minister's speeches as in others. Therefore, we must give thought to how, collectively, we Europeans will protect and promote the joint interests that we are in the process of forming. Protection and promotion mean defence, and there is a gaping hole in the heart of it. Europe cannot be defended without France, and France, although an Atlantic ally, refuses to take part in the defence organisation that has been created for the defence of Europe. President Mitterrand re-emphasised that in a speech the other day.

Frankly, I think that the French are mistaken. I can understand that, when the Americans were in a position of hegemony, when they dominated the European scene, General de Gaulle felt uneasy about it. But that is not the situation today. The Americans are asking, almost begging, us to play a bigger part than we do. Therefore, I think that the French are wrong, but we must live in the world as it is. Interesting Franco-German defence agreements are being made. I hope that there are an increasing number of Anglo-French and Anglo-German projects under review. But, somehow, all that wants bringing together.

Since 1946 I have been a believer in Europe. I am the last survivor of the little group that sat with Churchill in the autumn of 1946 and decided to start the European movement. Would not the best way be to put more weight into the Western European Union? That was, after all, a British conception. It was launched by Anthony Eden when the French rejected the idea of German rearmament. We persuaded them to agree to German rearmament by committing a corps and a tactical air force to the continent on a permanent basis. Our concept was simple, and its importance is only now beginning to become clear. There was a memorandum that persuaded Eden that we needed two boxes—a box to keep the Russians out, which was NATO, and a box to keep the Germans in, which was the Western European Union. That is what we went for.

I do not think that boosting the WEU will weaken the American commitment. The Americans are in Europe because it is in their interests to be in Europe. A very big European effort indeed would be needed before the Americans could feel safe enough to withdraw massively from Europe. However, if we strengthened the WEU, that might anchor West Germany still more firmly into the western European family. That is important, at a time when the siren voices of neutralism are being heard quite loudly in different parts of Germany.

There is another reason why it is important to strengthen the WEU. If the bipolar world—the world that has been dominated by the two super-powers—is to recede, though I am not sure that it will, and if a more multipolar world is to take its place, we must expect problems to arise for states that were previously subordinated to the two great alliances. Even during the time of the bipolar world, that has been happening. The Falklands and the Iran-Iraq wars are examples, but new crises may arise between countries that are now less subordinated to the two super-powers.

The newspapers are full of stories about Serbian nationalism. I do not intend to weary the House by discussing that problem, apart from recalling that world war 1 started with an outburst of Serbian nationalism that culminated in the assassination of the archduke. The Balkans are still a possible powder keg. So is the middle east, so is Africa. Europe will not be the policeman of the world—at least, I hope not—but Europe has worldwide interests and it is our duty to protect and promote those interests. The Gulf war demonstrated that fact.

When my right hon. Friends consider their defence policy, I beg them to keep seriously in mind the importance of the Western European Union. We need to keep the Germans in the western bloc and strengthen the European pillar of the Atlantic alliance. We need an organisation in which we can give thought to how European interests outside the area can best be protected and promoted.

6.33 pm

Unexpectedly, I found that I was unable to be present for the opening speeches yesterday evening. I have written to the Secretary of State and to the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill), who opened the debate for the Opposition, offering apologies for my absence.

Throughout the debate generous tribute has been paid to those who serve in our armed forces. I am happy to associate myself with that tribute. However, I wish to pay a particular tribute to those who perform search and rescue operations around the coasts of the United Kingdom. I have a particular constituency interest in that matter, but it is also a matter of national significance. Many hon. Members will know that a review of such operations is taking place. The Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces who is to reply to the debate knows of my particular interest in the apprehension that is felt about the future of the search and rescue operations at RAF Leuchars in my constituency. A flight of 22 Squadron, flying Wessex helicopters, provides that search and rescue facility.

Until this year, 138 missions have been flown and 98 people have been rescued. On average, 90 per cent. of rescues are civilian rescues. On a daily basis, the pilots and their accompanying observers and winchmen have to display great skill and courage—almost always in very unpleasant and dangerous conditions. As we have heard, a review is taking place. Some of us, including the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), who has taken a keen interest in the matter, had hoped that before the debate we might be told the precise result of that review.

The Minister was extremely courteous when he listened to what we had to say. In particular, he received from Fife a delegation comprising the district council, the regional council and me. We welcomed that, but we should welcome all the more a decision that the existing service is to be retained.

I do not want anybody to think that it is only in Fife that the civic authorities are concerned about this matter. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that he has the full support of Tayside in all the efforts that are being made to retain the Wessex helicopter squadron. Many of the rescues are carried out in Tayside, and it is fair to say that the majority of those rescues take place in my constituency.

The Minister will be in no doubt about the strength of feeling at every level of government in central Scotland about the issue.

The Government's announcement of February 1988, to the effect that search and rescue would be retained so long as there was a military requirement for it, has not alleviated much of the concern. I do not expect the Minister to tell us today about the results of the review, but can he say when he will be able to give us the results? Since the review has not yet, I presume, been completed, I can do no better than to refer him to the last sentence of paragraph 10.6 of the seventh report of the Select Committee. It says that
"the withdrawal of SAR facilities from Leuchars would mean that large areas of central Scotland would have no daylight SAR coverage within an hour from call out."
The last sentence of the following paragraph is in heavy type, which I suppose means that it is emphasised. It says:
"It would not be acceptable for military SAR facilities to be withdrawn from RAF Leuchars without there being a requirement that any civilian facilities should use aircraft as capable, and have readiness states and back-up at least as good, as those provided by the military."
I intend also to refer briefly to the closure of the Royal Ordnance factory at Bishopton. The case concerning the property elements of that closure have already been eloquently deployed. Last night the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and lnverclyde (Mr. Graham) spoke most movingly about the consequences of the closure to his constituents. However, my concern relates to the possible strategic consequences of that closure. I understand that Bishopton is the United Kingdom's prime manufacturer of gun propellants and that it has a unique nitroglycerine manufacturing facility. It employs 1,100 skilled, experien-ced and loyal workers.

What consideration has been given to the consequences to our defence capability if the factory goes out of production? What assurances have the Government received about continued production and supply? And is it really true that we might find ourselves, in extremis, having to rely on foreign manufacturers? At best that would make us vulnerable. At worst it would put us at severe risk.

Tribute has already been paid to the Select Committee's work. I can do no more than say that in its consideration of the Royal Navy's surface fleet, in its sixth report to the House, that tribute is more than amply justified. It behoves all of us to read that report and the Governments response to it and form a judgment as to where the truth lies. I do not understand the Select Committee to have changed its conclusions because of the terms of the response. Perhaps it was hardly encouraged to do so when the Government's practical response to its report was to order three new type 23 frigates.

I ask the Government to lake account of the fact that great uncertainty surrounds shipyards such as Yarrow and Swan Hunter as a result of the Government's current shipbuilding programme. Building the ships that the Royal Navy requires necessarily involves high levels of investment and skill. To justify such investment and to maintain such skills there must be long-term orders or at least an expectation of them. Skills are frequently difficult to acquire but easy to lose.

There is also uncertainty about helicopters. On 9 April 1987, the Secretary of State for Defence announced an intention to place an order with Westland for 25 utility EH101 helicopters for delivery in the early 1990s. The EH101 is a basic design. Since the announcement, the Ministry of Defence has, I understand, attempted to define its detailed requirements and may even now be embarking on project definition studies. The result is that 1995 is probably the earliest achievable delivery date.

I am sure that I am not the only hon. Member to have received representations on this matter, but I must tell the House that the company views the delays with considerable concern. I hope that the Minister can give the company some comfort today and assure it that further delays are unlikely.

It is inconceivable that the secure defence of the United Kingdom can be ensured other than through our membership of NATO. For the foreseeable future, NATO will be a nuclear alliance. I find myself in almost total agreement with the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery); any contact with officials or politicians in the United States makes it clear that, whoever wins the presidential election next month, the issue of a greater European contribution will undoubtedly be on the agenda. There is a risk of overemphasising the United States position. I do not believe that there is any mood of isolationism, but there is a mood of realism brought about by financial circumstances there, particularly the budget deficit.

We cannot ignore the possible political consequences of the economic changes of 1992. There are undoubtedly uncertainties in that connection, but there may be opportunities as well. A more integrated Europe might find itself compelled and encouraged to make a greater contribution to its own defence. It is clear, however, that, by 1992, all but £1·8 billion of the expenditure on Trident will have been incurred. Just as Polaris could not be towed out to sea and sunk—which I think was suggested at one stage—we will not be able to switch Trident off as if it were a conveyor belt. Whichever party is in government by 1992, it will have Trident effectively, if not completely, in place.

No matter what is said in the debate or outside the House, the party that forms the Government in 1992 will not unilaterally remove Trident. The intermediate nuclear forces treaty has changed all that and the debate in 1992 will be about keeping a strategic nuclear deterrent in the United Kingdom or being willing to dispose of it if one is satisfied that that is safe. It is wrong to think that that debate will necessarily be domestic, because if the United States and the Soviet Union achieve a START I treaty and move on to START II, it is almost certain that there will be great pressure on the United Kingdom to put her weapons on the table.

Leaving aside the difficult question whether we should own or lease the missiles, we cannot ignore the fact that the United States might, because of its commitment to START II, be unwilling to remain co-operative in those respects in which the United Kingdom relies on it for the servicing of missiles.

It was not always popular in my party to be in favour of deployment of cruise missiles. There was a curiosity in the opinion polls of the time—they showed that a majority of people opposed cruise but favoured retaining the independent nuclear deterrent. The Government take great credit for the INF treaty. It is partly justified, but the issue is not quite as simple as they claim. It is clear, however, that if there had been unilateral withdrawal of cruise missiles during the time of Mr. Brezhnev it is unlikely that there would have been any response.

My criticism of the Government is that they seem to be unduly pessimistic. I accept the need for caution in these matters but caution and optimism need not be mutually exclusive. We must accept that Trident will effectively be in position by the next general election. The weapon's life goes beyond the end of the century. It is highly unlikely that any Government will be capable of removing or be willing to remove Trident unilaterally. If a safe means of arms reduction can be arrived at without prejudice to our safety, we should adopt it, but there can be no reduction unless there is satisfaction, in so far as one can be satisfied, that our safety will not be prejudiced.

6.46 pm

I should like to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and his colleagues for the excellent colour and quality of the Estimates.

Defence consists of strategy and tactics. Strategy is the ability to estimate the strength of one's enemy now and in the future. Tactics are through NATO and the flexible and dual response and the retention of Trident.

We all welcome the historic summit between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev in December 1987. We note that it might be the first step towards some form of arms reduction, both conventional and atomic. We must remember, however, that in the same month as that summit, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met Mr. Gorbachev at Brize Norton, where bilateral negotiations were made possible. We should give credit to our Prime Minister for that, and it was a step in the right direction.

We all know that the Warsaw pact has more than 3:1 superiority in artillery, 2:1 superiority in tactical aircraft and hundreds of thousands of chemical weapons. It also has nuclear warheads targeted towards NATO. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has always maintained that until we can get a lasting and satisfactory disarmament agreement, we must retain our nuclear deterrent. I entirely agree with her.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) mentioned the United States. I agree with him that they have problems on their doorstep in central and south America. They sometimes chide us and say that we should spend more on defence, but I think that they will always be our main ally in NATO—let us hope so.

Mr. Gorbachev has achieved an incredible victory in his own country by beating the conventional Communist clique. He realises that unless he can achieve a powerful industrial and agricultural output he has no future. With such a background, it would be possible to pay for increased arms production. Let us not forget that the Soviet Union is increasing arms production day by day.

There is also the possibility that the satellites, on which Mr. Gorbachev places so much importance, could either give him difficulties or strength, according to their wish. Their will and their degree of independence—and their independent views—have already become apparent to the world. A change in leadership could mean an alteration of policy.

I shall now turn to what I regard as one of the most dangerous things happening now. Hostile relations between Russia and China have resulted in at least 500,000 troops being stationed on the Sino-Soviet frontier. If an agreement was made between those two countries—and it looks as if there will be one—we would be faced with an estimated 500,000 troops who could be deployed under the Warsaw pact. Far more importantly, if that agreement was to go even further and there was a military alliance between Russia and China, we should be faced with one of the most powerful combinations and an enormous defence problem. That is why it is terribly important that we should always anticipate that possibility in our defence strategy.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) said yesterday that we should anticipate possible and future alignments and that we should always ensure that we have sufficient in our armoury to defend ourselves. That is why reductions must be verified, and must, at the same time, not reduce in any way our ability to make our contribution to NATO and our own defences. I referred to the United States earlier. It will always play its part in Europe.

I wish to speak next about the Reserve. I welcome the national employer liaison committee, although I am not sure whether it will work, because of factors beyond the Governments control. The Government will have to think again about how we can build up a sufficiently strong Reserve and Territorial Army that can take its place in NATO and fulfil its essential commitments in the defence of this country.

I thank my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces for coming down to Victoria barracks and helping me. I hope that he does not have to face the Star Chamber for long when it comes to rebuilding the barracks. We visited the Life Guards together on the way and learnt two lessons there. One important lesson that we learnt was that the versatility of the Army today is quite incredible. The second lesson was appreciating the difficulties of manning equipment such as tanks that are highly sophisticated and require a great deal of training. One has to balance sophistication and training to ensure that there are enough men to absorb the complicated technology that is now incorporated in almost all weapons.

I fully support the Government. I support their retention of Trident and I support almost everything that they say in the defence review. I hope that this country will be able to play its part not only in NATO and in other parts of the world that people tend to forget, but that we shall be able to assist in the process of world disarmament.

6.54 pm

The Defence Estimates before the House represent a reduction in real terms of 2·6 per cent. a year. Inevitably, hon. Members yesterday expressed anxiety about how long the Government can keep the lid on defence spending while meeting current commitments. The Secretary of State for Defence himself admitted that difficult choices cannot be avoided.

Yet the existing gap is nothing like the chasm that is likely to open up between commitments and resources in the next few years. The scale of some forthcoming procurement decisions will prevent the Secretary of State from finding relief in slippage, cutting some marginal tasks out of area or the more efficient management of procurement. It is little wonder that a leader in The Daily Telegraph this summer described the "Statement on the Defence Estimates 1988"as
"bland and … self-congratulatory as ever"
or that Mr. Leon Brittan, in his pamphlet "Defence and Arms Control in a Changing Society", said:
"The Government should not put off a wide-ranging review of defence policy."
We are witnessing once again the syndrome that existed in the 1970s, which was so soundly criticised by Conservative Members when they were in opposition, as well as by this Administration when they came to power. In the 1970s, the resources that successive Governments were prepared to justify to Parliament were never quite sufficient to meet the commitments and capabilities that those Governments equally thought it necessary to maintain. I experienced that phase when I was on the Treasury Bench, but I was part of the Government who eventually took steps to match resources with commitments.

Whereas in the 1970s commitments were pruned—as they were following the 1974 review; there is no doubt about that—they have now been kept at roughly the same level for the past six years, and in certain cases even increased. At the same time, we are edging into a very expensive phase of procurement, involving, for example, the completion of the Tornado programme, the arrival of Trident, the replacement of the aging Chieftains, the maintenance of amphibious capability and the development of the European fighter aircraft—not to mention a large and increasing number of quite unnerving cost overruns to be found in table 2 of the Estimates. Yet competitive tendering actually fell over the past year, as is also revealed in table 2.

The outcome is bound to have a harmful effect on training, activity and professional standards, governed as they are by such factors as petrol, spare parts and ammunition—the only respects on which money can be saved in the short term. In consequence, there is an effect on morale and retention rates, which are already worsening quite significantly, as was confirmed in our exchanges yesterday. That is the natural consequence of overstretch and curtailment of activity.

Let us consider briefly the three services. The role of the Royal Navy cannot be filled by any other ally. Nevertheless, the Navy will account for only £2·5 billion of the Estimates, compared with the more than £4 billion that is to be spent on British forces in the central region. Hon. Members on both sides of the House must be concerned, therefore, that doubts should continue to arise year after year about the size and effectiveness of the fleet, especially in view of its NATO-assigned role and the escalating size and power of the Soviet navy. NATO is a maritime alliance; the Warsaw pact is not. Yet the Government's inadequate provision for the Navy is something to which every independent expert bears witness. Plainly, that provision is now inadequate to allow us to discharge our NATO role, much less continue to meet out-of-area commitments. SACLANT says that he is now 45 per cent. short of the escorts that he needs and the Commander-in-Chief, Fleet does not have adequate operational assets, according to the Select Committee on Defence.

The surface fleet of destroyers and frigates numbers "about 50", the Ministry of Defence says—in itself a change from the previous absolute commitment to 50 ships. Currently, there are 13 destroyers and 35 frigates available—48 vessels. But of these, three destroyers and 11 frigates are in refit, on trial or being used for training, leaving just 34 operational. In other words, almost all the Nott proposals of June 1981, to which both sides of the House were then opposed, have been achieved by 1988. Nott recommended only two carriers, and we are just about to mothball one. We do not have the men to run the carrier that is about to be mothballed.

Caught out by the statement on the Defence Estimates in 1988 by the Select Committee, the Secretary of State rushed to announce the ordering of three more type 23 frigates. Yet he invited tenders for four frigates just a year ago. That is an example of slippage. Because the defence statement is so professional—look at it, Mr. Deputy Speaker—because it is so glossy and so presentational, seemingly full of information, graphs and essays, it is so potentially lulling, comforting and even deceiving. The only way in which hon. Members can deal with it is really to study it—as most demonstrably do not, as can be seen from debates year after year—and ask questions.

With the greatest respect to the Minister who opened the debate, we got the kind of speech that we get every year under this Administration—a long speech that bears little relation to the subject. What he had to say is very important but it can be said under two other departmental headings. What we are here to do—we cannot do otherwise—is to discuss the statement. The best way in which we can address it is to raise questions.

That is the best way in which hon. Members can assist the ongoing debate on defence—to go on raising questions such as what is the present age structure of the surface fleet? How many vessels are operational, in dockyard hands or on disposal lists? We do not always have up-to-date information on what ships are on disposal lists. How many of the minesweeper orders planned under a £1 billion modernisation scheme will be completed by the 1995 deadline? How many type 23 frigate orders are envisaged by 1991, before, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) reminded us, they are overtaken by the NFR90 programme? Is it true that the first two type 23s will probably sail without an effective central command and control system? That was the whole purpose of the type 23 programme, because, of course, the NFR90 ships will have another role to play. Above all, why is British sea power apparently more highly prized by the Kuwaiti Government than by Her Majesty's Government?

The Army, according to The Economist on 27 May this year, "is seriously underequipped". The problem of replacing Chieftan tanks is well known, but the Army has a vital need also for modern artillery and air defence weapons. Three questions arise: first, given the stress laid on air mobility on page 24 of the statement, when will the EH101, to which the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) referred, succeed the Puma in that role? Secondly, when will the multi-launch rocket system, referred to on page 312 as "under order", come into service? Thirdly, does the full development of the third generation of anti-tank guided weapons, mentioned in paragraph 4.4, allow for the latest Soviet tank technology, notably the FST1?

The RAF has received more favourable funding in recent years, but there remain two significant gaps in the RAF's aircraft inventory. The delays in acquiring a modern airborne early warning aircraft are well known. We heard yesterday from the Secretary of State that we cannot afford the full complement. I should like to know when the first E3A aircraft will be delivered. That would be helpful to the House. Will it just slip? The other gap is the lack of specialised electronic warfare aircraft, such as the EF111 or the F4G "Wild Weasel". If West Germany sees the need to acquire a Tornado variant for the job, why are we preventing our own tactical air force in the central region from having one?

I have other questions. First, when will Tucano production catch up on the original schedule? Secondly, when will the much-delayed tail end of Tornado GR1 deliveries finally occur? Thirdly, how long is the Tornado ADV radar expected to remain a problem? What is the future of the 32 mothballed Tornado F2s? When is the improved UKADGE mentioned on page 23 of the statement expected to become operational? Finally, when, oh when, will we have a modern IFF?

Compared with last year's hawkish treatment of Soviet foreign policy, the present Estimates display considerably greater willingness to accept the reality of change in the Soviet Union. Yet the Government are still saying that, as East-West relations improve, as the Russians withdraw from Afghanistan and as they implement the INF treaty, it is appropriate to respond with a vast increase in Britain's nuclear capacity.

That is a gross misjudgment of our real security needs, as the North Atlantic Assembly—of which I am a member —composed of Members of Parliament from 16 member nations, recognises in a new report. It considers that those needs are to improve the conventional balance in Europe, to strengthen the European pillar and to acknowledge and encourage the very welcome developments in the Soviet Union. That is the view of the parliamentary side of our alliance.

I recommend that report to hon. Members. It is a fascinating blueprint for a new and more equitable relationship between the transatlantic members of the alliance. They see that relationship as having changed. Therefore, they ask how NATO is to change with it. Should we not start with a strategic rethink with a view to greater flexibility and seek a strategy of flexible, minimum deterrence? I hope that in next year's Defence Estimates we shall have an essay on those issues, because the permanent under-secretary in the Ministry of Defence is eminently qualified to address those vital questions. In conclusion, perhaps the biggest threat we face currently is the danger of the status quo.

Order. I remind the House that the 10-minute limit on speeches is now in operation. I ask hon. Members who are called to keep an eye on the clock.

7.7 pm

The House always listens very attentively indeed to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) as he has a great knowledge of defence matters and, as I said in March this year when I followed him in a debate on the Royal Navy, he has a genuine determination to see the Royal Navy enhanced and strengthened. But, alas, he is in an impossible position. Only a few weeks ago at the Labour party conference a resolution was passed proposing that Britain's defence expenditure should be brought down into line with our European partners. As all my hon. Friends know, that would mean massive cuts in Britain's defence equivalent to about the cost of running the Royal Navy.

We mark this year the 71st anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution which brought about the Soviet Union. I do not think that I am going too far in saying that at the moment the Soviet Union is in danger of being a Third world country with First world weapons and the First world's best space programme. It is a country in chaos with a bloated bureaucracy and a military and industrial complex out of control. Of course we all wish the secretary general the best of luck in trying to reform and modernise his system and cut back on the defence effort of that country, but I am not sure I would give him more than a 51 per cent. chance of succeeding.

Lord Carrington, who has just completed a very successful period with NATO, said:
"When it comes to plain facts, there has been no reduction yet in Soviet military power, no diminution in the rate at which new tanks, ships and aircraft are flowing off the production line. Expenditure on procurement continues to grow at nearly 3 per cent. a year, despite Mr. Gorbachev's peace rhetoric and his interest in slowing down the military machine."
The same noble Lord said in a speech in Oslo in 1985 —it is worth drawing his remarks to the attention of the House—that if there is an elephant in one's neighbour's garden, it may make sense to study its intentions but equally it makes sense to have a strong fence to protect one's flowerbeds. We are right to keep our guard up in these changing circumstances while hoping for the best.

In August this year—this is a sign of the times—the United States Defence Secretary, Mr. Carlucci, gave an address at the Soviet military academy in Moscow. While speaking to the assembled company he said:
"we have difficulty in reconciling a defensive doctrine with what we see in Soviet force structure and operational strategy as an emphasis on the offensive—especially on surprise and manoeuvre. I refer to such things as the operational manoeuvre group concept, forward-based bridging units, and the heavy emphasis on tanks and artillery. At the same time, we see no shift of emphasis to the kind of forces typically associated with defence."
I hope that the House and the country will ask the basic question as to why, in October 1988, the Soviet Union constantly practises the river-crossing exercise with its shock armies. Why does it base so far forward and so close to the German border so much ammunition and petrol, oil and lubricants? If we cannot get a satisfactory answer, surely we have no alternative but to keep on strengthening our own defence effort and improving our co-ordination with our allies.

I want to draw attention to the enhancement of the weapons systems of the Soviet Union. We used to say, with some confidence, "We do not need to match the Soviet Union tank by tank, aircraft by aircraft or submarine by submarine because we have a technological edge." Sadly, we are losing that edge. I remind the House of the new Typhoon submarines that the Soviet Union has deployed. They are quiet and hard to detect. It will be difficult for our submarines to keep abreast of that stealth technology. We talk about our reactive armour. The Soviet Union has the same thing. We must spend our money on gaining and keeping a technological gap. If we do not, without the numbers behind us, we will be in real trouble.

I cannot claim great enthusiasm for deciding on the new tank for the British Army of the Rhine. I suggest to my hon. Friends on the Front Bench that the way forward is through improved surveillance methods and precision-guided missiles. In this day and age, if one can find, one can hit and if one can hit, one can destroy.

I want to draw attention to the lack of helicopters in the British Army. There was a recent display and exercise on Salisbury plain which drew attention to this. Many of my hon. Friends will have further details. We have allowed the British Army to fall behind other armies in NATO and the Warsaw pact in this respect. The time has come to improve helicopter capability.

Saint Cyril was once described as a fearless and courageous preacher of the orthodox, in theological terms. I have tried to be the same in defence matters. I hope that I may be allowed to raise two further points which are not quite so orthodox. The first concerns the need for a defence review. I am by no means a lonely voice among Conservative Members on such topics. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan), before clearing his desk to move to Brussels where I hope he will keep Kent suitable and safe for grazing heifers and Tory voters, called for a defence review. He was wise to do so. It should not be an issue between the parties. Sir John Nott carried out the last defence review under great pressure from the Treasury. He had to find big cuts in a short time. The inter-service mechanism was not at the advanced stage that it has now reached and the results of that review are well out of date. For example, there has been the INF agreement. It would be wise of the Government and in their own political interest to recognise that. The previous election is over one horizon and the next election has not yet appeared on the other one. This is a good moment to study Britain's defence capabilities and the new challenges we face in the new world to see how we can best proceed.

The second matter—this is one of my many lost causes but I am happy to bring it forward for consideration by my hon. Friends—is the need for Britain to place less emphasis on its continental effort and more on its maritime effort. I have considerable firepower behind me on that issue. However, at least three Secretaries of State for Defence have quietly taken me aside and said, "Cyril, you are wrong. Please understand that you just harm everything by talking like that. Don't you understand that the United States is under great pressure to cut back on its 327,000 service men in Europe and that Germany does not want to carry our burden in Europe?" Since the time of Marlborough standing armies in Europe have not been popular with the British people. I do not believe that it is the best use of limited defence resources. We would be true to our traditions and would be looking after the best interests of the defence of the free world if, over a period of time, we could disengage from the continent and increase our maritime effort. I should like to see the Cabinet discussing that matter and I should like lo see a cautious Civil Service statement in the defence White Paper that, in the long run, that is where Britain's defence interests lie.


The debate has come far too late in the year. It is a scandal. It is wrong for defence to be pushed back into the mop-up session just because of the incompetence of the Government's business managers. I hope that we shall be given an assurance that there will never again be five months between the publication of the White Paper and the debate. If we do have the debate this late, let us have it when the Secretary of State has some idea whether he has won his annual battle with the Treasury.

It will not surprise many hon. Members to know that I find myself unable to support the amendment in the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends merely because of one phrase which relates to the cancellation of Trident. I do not propose to weary colleagues with explanations of my reasons for that because I am sure that they are fairly well known. I want to place on record that I am content with the rest of the amendment. I am delighted that it calls on the Government to
"use resources to secure our non-nuclear defences and to work actively"—
those are beautiful words—
"for the reduction and abolition of nuclear weapons in Britain and elsewhere".
I congratulate the Front Bench spokesmen for not mentioning unilateralism or saying that we should have no nuclear weapons in our hands, in our territories, or on our territorial waters. I welcome the slow move back towards the traditional defence policies of my party. However, there was one extraordinary passage in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill). I gave him notice that I intended to raise the matter. He talked about a peace wing and war wing in the Labour party. I do not know of anybody in my party who is in a war wing or who wants a war. I hope that it was a slip of the tongue because he will be hard put to identify anybody in the Labour party who wants a war with anyone.

I congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) and Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) on their catalogue of inquiries of Ministers about the state of our defence equipment programme. I notice that not a single Minister had the courtesy to make a note when either of my hon. Friends was speaking, so I suppose that we cannot expect answers to their extremely important questions. The only other explanation is that Ministers know the list already and are preparing the answers anyway, but I should be surprised if that were the case.

My hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe produced a superb list of problems in the Ministry of Defence and I shall add a couple, one of which is at least a scandal. At least one Minister in the Ministry of Defence must be extremely grateful that the DROPS affair has not been considered in detail by the Select Committee on Defence.

I am concerned that a choice will have to be made between an American and British tank. This country has had a dismal history of tank production since the Chieftain tank was introduced in 1966. We have no record of which we can be proud of co-operation with our allies over the debate on smooth and rifle bore, and what should be the size of the bore of the tank gun, and we have had a dismal record in selling tanks abroad. Unless the new owners of the Royal Ordnance factories can do something about selling more tanks, we should get out of the tank-making business altogether; we would probably be far better off buying German, if not American, tanks. MBT80 was on the stocks when I arrived at the Ministry of Defence in 1976, but we have not progressed much further with it.

I am worried about the state of the fire control systems that are available to the Royal Navy. I cite in aid the appalling disaster in the Gulf not long ago when an American warship, which had the most modern fire control systems, shot down an innocent airliner. I do not seek to place blame on any of the individuals concerned, but an article in New Scientist of 5 May reports—I should be grateful for some response from the Minister on this —that the Ministry of Defence has had to cancel an order for a computerised command and control system for the new type 23 frigates. The article says that the Ministry of Defence has
"spent £30 million on the project, but the system could not cope with orchestrating all the weapons and sensors on the frigates.
This means that the officers on board four Type 23 frigates that will be launched between now and the 1990s will have to rely on operating each sensor and weapon independently."
If that is so, we are faced with a serious problem, with no guarantee that the disaster that overtook that airliner and American warship could not happen to one of our own warships.

I have never concealed my scepticism about the European fighter aircraft, which was known as the AST403 in 1976. It was supposed to be a Harrier-Jaguar replacement and to be optimised in the ground-attack role. It is now to be optimised in the air-superiority role, but I have never heard a single satisfactory word of explanation from a Minister of why that U-turn in the function of the aircraft has taken place. I strongly suspect that it is to do with industrial and political considerations in terms of co-operation with the French or German defence industries rather than being related to the needs of the Royal Air Force. It would be extremely interesting if Ministers said whether the United States is releasing its stealth technology for the EFA project or, if it is not, whether they are confident that our stealth technology matches that of the Americans.

On page 65 of the White Paper—the Minister need not look it up, as it is not a point on which I want a reply —there is mention of the forces in eastern Europe that are not on the central front. I do not take issue with the figures given for the central front or eastern Europe, but it is a fact that the other Warsaw pact land forces—I recently returned from a trip to Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania —are, for all practical purposes, no more than supernumerary agricultural workers. They spend most of their time in the fields digging ditches and cutting hedges. I cannot foresee their being of any serious military use, other than in the defence of their country—certainly not in any forward deployment.

The hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) made the extremely valuable point that the quality of Soviet material is now outpacing ours in various directions. He drew attention to the Typhoon submarine, about which we have known for some time, but there are serious suggestions that the Soviet Union is outpacing us in the quality of battlefield munitions, and that must be of considerable concern. It gets most of its technology from breaches of COCOM.

I am concerned that the Ministry of Defence does not put nearly enough resources at the disposal of the COCOM office inside the Ministry. The Select Committee on Trade and Industry has taken a little evidence about this matter, and, as I understand it, there are three officers on full-time duty in the Ministry of Defence attending to COCOM matters. Anyone who has visited the office of technology assessment in the Pentagon, as I did recently, knows that the United States has about 200 people devoted to this extremely important work, and it is high time the Ministry of Defence paid more attention to it.

I can understand why the Secretary of State is experiencing difficulty agreeing his defence Vote with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. One reads in the newspapers that the Secretary of State is cooling his heels in the Treasury's ante-room. I take it that that is another of Mr. Bernard Ingham's insulting briefings about Cabinet Ministers. I can believe that the Treasury is unsympathetic to the politics of burden-sharing, and I very much agree with the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell). Whoever wins the next election will come under enormous pressure for a reduction in American ground troops in Europe. Had I been speaking yesterday, I would have made a different peroration because I understand that Vice-President Bush has given a firm commitment—if he has been reported accurately—that there will be no reduction in the American military presence in Europe. I foresee no reason for complacency because there will be enormous pressure on the matter in Congress, which controls the defence vote. Our budget, despite the efforts of Ministers to pretend otherwise, is on a downward trend in real terms, and I hope that the Secretary of State will win the fight that he must win with the Treasury to obtain an adequate defence Vote.

7.27 pm

To some extent, our debate is a victim of the peace process. Increasingly, the people of Western Europe are coming to take at face value the statements of General Secretary, and now President, Gorbachev.

The general secretary expressed the hope that all in western Europe will live in the same house. The people of eastern Europe have a different wish. They do not wish to live in the same house as the Soviet Union. More and more, they are asserting their different identities and reverting to their historic and national roots. There are nationalist movements in the Baltic states, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Armenia, Georgia and in the Balkans, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) alluded. They are movements of fundamental significance, but, as I have said before, empires in decline can be at least as dangerous to their neighbours as empires that are expanding. If one looks at the history of what has happened in the periods of decline of the Ottoman empire, the Austro-Hungarian empire, the French empire, the British empire, the Portuguese empire and many others, one sees that the processes of decline were accompanied by conflict. We cannot be sure that such conflict in Europe will not overspill, with dramatic consequences. We must, therefore, be vigilant, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) so wisely reminded us.

At the same time as change is afoot in the Soviet Union, the Soviets new peace policy is encouraging western Governments to increase their credits to the eastern bloc, to increase the flow of high technology to the eastern bloc and greatly to expand East-West trade without predetermined quid pro quos being demanded. The result of the process could be a much strengthened Sovied Union in economic terms. In military terms, it is clear that the capability of the Soviet armed forces continues to grow across the spectrum—in both strategic and conventional weaponry. As yet, there has been no sign of substantial changes in military doctrine or of substantial reductions in force posture by the Soviets. It is important that we be vigilant and that, as resources are so constrained, we should seek ever better value for money.

I am afraid that this will be a difficult affair for the British Government. They have shown great responsibility in their conduct of the nation's defence. I praise my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and his ministerial team. I know as a Western European Union committee chairman how helpful they have been, for example, in organising the WEU symposium on military research in London in March and in providing for visits by my committee to the tri-national Tornado training establishment at Cottesmore and to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down. They have been helpful, positive and encouraging in every way, but they are up against a fundamental problem—lack of resources.

The pay of the armed forces must go up at least in keeping with the rate of pay in the civil community. The cost of weapons increases rather more than inflation. All this happens at the same time as our defence budget decreases in real terms and, although I acknowledge that the decrease is a fairly recent development, it is a fact that the Government must face. This squeeze on resources is impelling my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State yet again to go cap in hand to the Treasury in this expenditure round to ask for more money. My right hon. Friend knows that unless he gets more money the circle cannot be squared.

Unless my right hon. Friend gets more money, it will be dificult to honour the Government's pledge in their answer in Cm. 443 to the report of the Select Committee on Defence on the surface fleet. The Government said:
"The Government has provided substantial additional resources for defence, including additions in the last Public Expenditure Survey round, so that commitments can be sustained. There is thus no need for or question of a defence review, whether 'by stealth' or otherwise."
Over the past six years I have spent much time—I have co-authored two books and chaired the Omega committee report of the Adam Smith Institute—vainly trying to suggest that it would be wise for the Government to embark upon a review. For a long time this budgetary bind has been plain for all to see. I have suggested that we should examine radically in concert with our allies—not unilaterally as we did in 1981 when Defence Secretary Nott presented Cmnd. 8288 "The United Kingdom Defence Programme: The Way Forward"—how best as good, faithful members of NATO, determined to enhance the European contribution to our common Atlantic defence, we could make better use of our resources.

The strategic defence of our nation in nuclear terms must be sacrosanct, and we all understand that. The Opposition's amendment is plainly totally irresponsible. We cannot ignore the defence of the home base. The Government have improved Britain's air defence, with the Tornado F3 coming into service, improvements in our radar infrastructure and the fact that the Home Service defence force and Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment squadrons are exercising well.

Defence of the east Atlantic and English channel is crucial for NATO. We play a key part, with 70 per cent. of the naval forces in those areas coming from the Royal Navy. Unless these command areas are secure, how can western Europe be reinforced in time of tension or war? Without such certain reinforcement, how can a defence of western Europe be sustained?

We must also consider our overseas intervention force capability. The capability to intervene on the flanks with the AMF and Marines is crucial. Our Norwegian friends are particularly vulnerable, adjacent as they are in the north to the Soviets and with the Kola peninsula base complex right on their doorstep—the base from which the Soviets' strategic submarine force and northern fleet sail. Intervention forces are vital for Britain. We have repeatedly seen how necessary they are, most recently in 1982 in the south Atlantic conflict.

Last, but not least, there is our Brussels treaty commitment. Are we for ever and for aye to keep a tactical air force, plus 55,000 men on the continent of Europe, as though nothing has changed? It is not as though the foreign exchange costs are met by our German friends. Since 1980 they have been absolved of the offset requirement which was incumbent on them. Paradoxically on the autobahns one sees the Germans proceeding on their stately way in BMWs and Mercedes while the Americans and British, who are there to defend them, drive along in their old jalopies. The Germans spend about half as much as the British on defence as a proportion of GNP.

I am suggesting only that the balance between the offence and the defence is changing in favour of the defence with precision-guided weapons, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath pointed out. The helicopter used against armoured vehicles is especially effective. We no longer have a conscript army as we did when we undertook the Brussels treaty commitment. There is a baggage train of families to maintain. One need only read the National Audit Office report "Costs and Financial Control of British Forces in Germany" to realise how expensive that baggage train is. Furthermore, in peace-time these forces are stationed in the wrong place, so it will be difficult for our forces in Germany to get to the right place in time of war.

My right hon. and hon. Friends in Government should not eschew a review. There is nothing wrong in re-examining strategy as international affairs develop. In fact, it is the responsible and right thing to do. If my right hon. and hon. Friends bite the bullet, forget what they may have said in answer to the Select Committee and conduct such a review, they will conclude that three divisions in Germany are too much for the United Kingdom. We should do rather more at sea and in the air and with our intervention forces. If we reduced our forces to a division west of the Rhine covering the clutch of Royal Air Force stations, Laarbruch, Bruggen and Wildenrath, that would be appropriate. We are not shirking our duty. We are one of the two European nuclear powers in the Alliance and shall continue to play a vital part.

7.38 pm

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate, first, because I know that many hon. Members wish to speak, and, secondly, because I cannot claim the comprehensive and detailed knowledge shown in many speeches, like that of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy).

However, I wish to raise once again the defence implications of the closure of the royal ordnance factories, especially, but not exclusively, that at Bishopton.The case has been put both inside and outside the House, most recently and with most passion last night by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham) who has a direct constituency interest.

I have an interest, first, as someone concerned with the defence and security of our nation, and, secondly, as someone concerned with the defence of my nation's employment. Thirdly, like other hon. Members, I am concerned to see that fair play is given to the taxpayer over this. Finally, I have a particular interest as a Member of Parliament whose constituency depends on the steel industry, which, while it is less strategic in a defence sense than the ROFs, is strategic in an industrial sense, and is about to go through the same privatisation process as that faced by the royal ordnance factories. As a result of all these concerns, I find the Governments attitude towards defence in general, and the royal ordnance factories in particular, at best wrong in priorities, and at worst negligent of the national interest.

Over the past few years, the defence posture of the Government has been characterised by three main features. First, they have consistently shown a preference for nuclear weapons, even if it is at the expense of conventional forces—what Lord Carver referred to as their delusions of nuclear grandeur. Secondly, the Government have consistently preferred the encourage-ment of private gain even when, in the defence sector, it may be at the expense of national defence needs. Finally, they have shown an increasing preference for using the private market as the arbiter of national defence requirement when it should only, and can only, be determined by public discussion, public policy and public ownership.

The history of the Government is littered with examples of dereliction of duty, from the Westland affair to the sell-off of the royal dockyards. Nowhere is that dereliction more obvious, and nowhere is the concern felt more, than in Scotland, and nowhere is it more obvious than in the proposed closures at Bishopton and Patricroft. In yesterday's press we read even more horrifying reports that another 10 British Aerospace factories, including two royal ordnance factories, could be under threat. Thus, despite the assurances of Ministers at the time of privatisation, and despite all the promises and pledges of British Aerospace, Bishopton is to close.

The fact of closure is galling enough on its own, but the excuse for the closure makes it even more unacceptable and unpalatable. The reason given—the need to reduce so-called spare or surplus capacity—serves only to underline once more the necessity for public sector control of the royal ordnance factories. While they were in the public sector and operating in the broad national interest, the existence of spare capacity within the royal ordnance factories was not a handicap but a bonus. Reserve capacity was a requirement of good defence provision, not because of any sympathy or sentimentality towards the work force, but for the good, sound strategic defence reasons that a nation with insufficient means to increase defence production in an emergency is a nation incapable of responding to an emergency.

Nothing illustrated that fact better than the conflict in the Falklands. Whatever side we take in the debates on the merits of that war, there was surely something bizarre and demeaning about a maritime nation scouring the ferry and fishing fleets of Britain to muster an adequate naval force to send into action. Let us not forget that during that emergency the royal ordnance factory at Bishopton was working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to supply the additional requirements made necessary by that conflict.

With the ordnance factories, the Government are going down the same mistaken road they followed with the Falklands. It is not as if the Government were unaware of the danger to reserve capacity when they privatised the factories. The matter was specifically raised during the debate on the Second Reading of the Ordnance Factories and Civil Services Bill, as far back as 16 January 1984, by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and others. The answer from the then Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement now looks quite staggering in its complacency. The Minister said, when he was challenged about the threat to reserve capacity:
"There has been far too much unwarranted negativity".
Incidentally, he may not have been a good manager of the interest of the defence force, but he was an expert in the use of words. I was talking to some people from Bishopton and they are greatly relieved to know that they face not unemployment but "unwarranted negativity". The Minister said:
"There has been far too much unwarranted negativity of this sort in discussion of the future of the ROFs. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that, once privatised, the ROFs could not be relied upon to supply the guns, fighting vehicles and ammunition they have supplied in the past; that in a time of tension or war we in the Ministry of Defence would look to the ROFs to step up production and suddenly find that they were not there. That is patently absurd. The ROFs are not beingsent anywhere."—[Official Report, 16January 1984; Vol. 52, c. 101.]
Well, I have news for Ministers. If they continue their present course, the next time we have an emergency or, in the words of the Minister, in a time of tension or war the Ministry of Defence looks to the ROFs—like Bishopton —they will not find them. They are going somewhere. In private hands, they are going down the tubes. Ministers cannot say that they were not forewarned. The tragedy is that normally forewarned is forearmed. In the case of this Government, forewarned means disarmed.

All this might be understandable if there had been fair treatment of the taxpayer, but the reality is that British Aerospace profited by untold millions because of undervaluation of land alone.

There are those who believe in a conspiracy theory of history. I am inclined to attribute what has happened not to that, but to another theory of history, beginning with a capital C. Whatever the reason for it, there should have been some humility from Ministers last night. Instead, the present Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement boasted of his prowess at property management. If that is a manifestation of expertise of property management by the Government, thank God the hon. Gentleman is not my estate agent.

Even at this late stage, the Government have a chance to restore the faith of workers at Bishopton and the other factories and to secure a good reserve capacity on a sound basis for the conventional support of our armed forces. They owe that duty not only to the work force of Bishopton, but to the safeguarding of the defence of this country.

7.48 pm

I wish to deal with one or two points that relate particularly to my part of the country, but, initially, I shall comment on some of the contributions made so far. I find the contributions from hon. Members on the Opposition Back Benches far more honest than the contributions from hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench. That is also true of the contribution from the Liberal Benches because, although the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), who is not in his seat at the moment, acknowledged that Trident would be in existence up to 1993, he did not say whether his party believed that that weapon would be used. His party leader has flatly refused to give an answer to that question when it has been put to him on a number of occasions on television. I therefore hope that, sooner or later, the Liberals will decide whether they would intend to use that weapon, as well as simply acknowledging its existence.

The hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) was challenged yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed) about the level of expenditure to which the Labour party would commit itself. In reply, he said:
"I confirm the first question. I shall reply to the second question in the course of my remarks."—[Official Report, 19 October 1988; Vol. 138, c. 917.]
I sat through his speech, and I have read it in the Official Report twice since then and can find no attempt to answer the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East about the amount of GNP that the Labour party would commit. I listened with interest to see whether the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) would touch on the matter today, but we still have no indication of approximately what proportion of GNP the Labour party intends to commit.

There may be a vast range of opinion among Opposition Members as to how that money should be spent. On the one hand, we heard it stated honestly by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and, on the other hand, by the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert), who made an excellent contribution to the debate, but Labour Front Bench Members have at no stage given an approximation of the amount of GNP that the Labour party would commit. They reel off all the problems saying, "We haven't got enough frigates or ammunition. We have problems with helicopters, the Army and the Air Force", but there is no indication as to whether they would be willing to put in more money, the same amount of money, or less money than the Government are currently doing. It is patently dishonest to list that catalogue of questions without attempting to deal with that general financial point.

I wish to mention two specific points about which there have already been a number of comments. I agree with the comments yesterday of my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) about the Territorial Army. I have been in correspondence with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary about the Territorial Army because, although I appreciate the efforts made by the Ministry of Defence to recruit people into the Territorial Army as an extra reserve of expertise that we genuinely need, I am concerned about the demands being put on individuals who join the Territorial Army. I believe that the Minister has been advised about this matter. I do not expect a reply this evening, but I am willing to discuss the matter with him later.

The impression is given that people recruited into the Territorial Army are told that they will be required for a certain number of days. The minimum is 27 days, plus at least six weekends. From my conversations with a number of people involved in the Territorial Army, it has become clear to me that that is not the expectation of the Territorial Army. One of those people said to me yesterday, "If you don't do at least one weekend every month, then you are useless to the Territorial Army." It was clearly indicated to the person about whom I wrote to the Under-Secretary that he would be required for at least 16 weekends a year and that anything less than that would not be of any major benefit to the Territorial Army. I checked that with other people whom I know belong to the Territorial Army and they all gave that clear indication.

It is therefore hardly surprising that, if people are recruited into the Territorial Army, expecting to give six, seven or eight weekends a year, which is quite reasonable, and then find themselves confronted with substantial pressure from officers in the Territorial Army to attend for 16 or 20 weekends a year, they find that demand too great and therefore give up. That partly explains the high turnover that we are currently facing. If we resolve that problem, many people currently leaving the Territorial Army will be willing to stay and those who have left would rejoin.

The other comments that I wish to make relate to recent purchasing decisions. I particularly welcome the commitment made yesterday by the Secretary of State to the European fighter aircraft. The Under-Secretary will be well aware of the importance of that to Bristol, like the importance of the Tornado programme, in terms of engines, and we greatly appreciate that. Much comment has been made about helicopters. Like my hon. Friends the Members for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend), for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) and for Weston-super-Mare, I am somewhat confused because I do not believe that the Ministry of Defence knows what it wants to do with helicopters. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood said so lucidly, aspects of defence policy are changing and, therefore, the requirements for tanks, helicopters and other armaments.

I particularly welcome the decision announced during the summer recess regarding the RTM 322 engine and the EH101 helicopter. I hope that that will go a long way towards guaranteeing sales of that helicopter, not only in Europe, but in other parts of the world. Like other hon. Members, I am not sure that the Ministry of Defence has a clear understanding of what it wishes to do with helicopters. I am not a military expert. I am not able to say whether it should do X, Y or Z, but the lack of clarity of policy comes through over and over again in all the documents with which I have been confronted.

There is a time limit for speeches in this debate. I hope to give extra time to other hon. Members and will not, therefore, comment on the royal ordnance factories, about which a number of hon. Members have spoken. However, I hope that my comments are of help in respect of the Estimates, which I commend to the House.

7.56 pm

Many important questions have been raised in the debate, but the main one is, "Are we right to tax the British people by £19 billion, which is £441 per elector, for the purposes set out in the defence White Paper?"

There is some disagreement, which I have tried to follow, between the two Front Benches about the balance between conventional and nuclear forces. I find no great disagreement—indeed, a wide measure of agreement— between the two Front Benches about the level of defence spending. I listened very carefully and I too picked up the idea that the Opposition were saying that more money should be spent on defence. If this debate were confined to that narrow question, it would not reflect the deeply held views of those people living in this country who believe, as I do, that the time has come for a much bolder, more imaginative and far-sighted review of Britain's defence and foreign policies.

I make no complaint, because we are not allowed to do so, that the amendment tabled by me and my hon. Friends has not been called for debate and will not be voted on, but that does not prevent me from referring to it. We said that our group of hon. Members
'declines to accept the Defence Estimates; believes that the Trident and new nuclear weapons programmes should be cancelled and the finance saved diverted to health, education and housing budgets; further calls for the removal of nuclear bases, weapons and facilities from Britain and an end to all participation in any nuclear programmes or systems; further resolves to reduce arms expenditure by £7 billion to the same level as other Western European countries and to divert the money saved to social spending and the arms manufacturing facilities released to socially useful production; and believes that reduction in arms spending will help to promote peace and the elimination of poverty and hunger throughout the world.'.
The thinking behind that was reflected clearly and overwhelmingly, not only at this year's Labour party conference, but at a succession of Labour party conferences. It has been put before the electorate and all of us in the House have been party to manifestos that have contained some or all of those proposals, but the real argument is about whether we should look again at the whole basis on which we propose to tax the British people.

The time has come to re-examine six assumptions upon which the foreign and defence policies of all Governments have been based since 1945. I say "all Governments" because, in a strange way, this is not in any sense a party matter. These assumptions are, first, that there is a Soviet military threat; secondly, that the United States, as the leader of the Western Alliance, has a world policy designed to uphold democracy and human rights all over the world; thirdly, that nuclear weapons make us safer; fourthly, that Britain has an independent deterrent; fifthly, that we can well afford to pay the cost of these arms; and finally, that our defence policy has protected and nourished democracy at home. All these assumptions need to be re-examined, for I believe that they are significantly false.

First, there is the issue of the Soviet military threat. Does anyone in this place seriously believe that, while Mr. Gorbachev is wrestling with long-overdue reforms in the Soviet Union, the Red Army is planning to land in Britain or to attack western Europe? I shall turn to what the public think about this because there are means of knowing that. The Soviet Union lost 20 million people during the second world war, and I am of a generation that will never forget that the liberty that we now enjoy was won in part by Russian blood in defence of their own territory in 1941. The purpose of the bombing of Hiroshima was not to bring the Japanese to their knees. I learnt when I was in Japan that the Japanese had offered to surrender weeks, if not months, before the bomb was dropped. It was dropped to warn the Russians.

The reason that Mr. Gorbachev is credible now is because—[Interruption] The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) laughs, but he should read the record of the tribunal trying the Japanese leaders after the war in Tokyo. The Japanese offered through the Swiss to surrender months before the atomic bomb was dropped. The only condition that they laid was that Hirohito should remain. The hon. Gentleman should read the record before doubting the accuracy of what I am saying. I discovered the fact only five years ago, but it is all on the record. The great theory that the bomb was used to save about 250,000 American lives is not true. Instead, it was used to tell the Soviet Union that we, the West, had an overwhelming weapon.

Mr. Gorbachev is credible because he says that he wants to cut defence expenditure to improve the standard of living of the Russian people.

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman because of the time limit.

The second argument is that the United States advocates and upholds democracy and civil rights throughout the world. I hope that I shall not be misunderstood when I say that America is an empire as Britain once was. America, in Vietnam, Cuba, Chile, Grenada, and in its relations with Franco and the Greek colonels, was not upholding democracy. Instead, it was protecting its world interests.

I was born in 1925, when about 20 per cent. of the world's population was governed through this Chamber. This place was the heart of the British empire, but we now live in a far-flung colony of the American empire. Those outside the House know this. The fact that we have no vote in the American presidential elections is a reminder of our colonial status.

The third argument—[Interruption.] Conservative Members laugh at what I am saying. They should remember that when we governed India the Indians had no say on how they were governed from this House. When Mr. Gandhi came to London in 1931, he was asked what he thought of civilisation in Britain. He said that he thought that it would be a good idea. That was a sign of the anti-colonial pressures of the time. The House must face facts.

The third argument is that nuclear weapons make us safer. After Chernobyl and the clear risk of accident, that is an unsupportable point of view. I say to my hon. Friends who contend that we must have the bomb because the Russians have it that when a Labour Prime Minister decided that we should build the bomb, the Russians did not have it. We decided to build nuclear weapons when the Soviet Union did not have them. That argument is a part of the history of the post-war years.

Fourthly, do we have an independent nuclear deterrent? We do not. We do not make nuclear weapons. The Americans supply them and refurbish them. Sir Frank Cooper was the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence and he must know more about these matters than anyone else. In the course of the Zircon film he said that we could not fire Polaris without the American satellite system. That was the secret, or the breaking of it, that made the Government wish to ban the film. Sir Frank made it clear that the Zircon satellite was an attempt to replace or supplement the American satellite system. The price that we paid for that, as we heard yesterday, was American control of the British security service and the situation that now prevails at GCHQ.

Fifthly, can we afford an independent nuclear deterrent? The answer is that we cannot. I am one of the few Members who sat in this place to listen to Aneurin Bevan's resignation speech. He resigned in 1951 over the high defence budget, which was at the expense of the welfare state. The cost is massive because it involves 60 per cent. of our scientists and engineers. If we compare that with the average level of expenditure in Western Europe, £7 billion more is spent here than by our allies, who are equally keen to defend their countries.

The transfer of resources would enable us to meet pressing needs. Does anyone think that more people will die in Britain as a result of the Red Army landing here than as a result of AIDS, cancer or heart disease? The people know that the nation's health is a national interest and that it is being starved of resources in part for the purpose of maintaining the defence budget.

Finally, is democracy protected by the present system? It is not. Militarism destroys liberty or erodes it. Let us consider, for example, the role of James Angleton in "Spycatcher", who came to London and told MI5 that the then Labour Prime Minister was a Soviet agent. There was the former Secretary of State for Defence who ordered Cathy Massiter to tap the phones of CND. These examples tell us that the military state infringes domestic liberty. The war in Ireland is a most vivid example.

What do the public think? There are those who say, Mr. Benn, what you say may be right, but what do the public think?" I am not a believer in opinion polls but they are available for examination. The latest opinion poll findings tell us that only 9 per cent. of the British people think that a Soviet attack is likely. When it comes to causes of war, 58 per cent. of the British people think that. the cause may be nuclear attack by accident. It seems that 6 per cent. think that the likely responsibility for such a war would rest with the Soviet Union, while 27 per cent. think that it would be with the United States. These are not hard Left arguments. I am referring to the figures that have been published by Dr. Gallup, who is no particular friend of mine.

It appears that 41 per cent. of the British people have confidence in the world role of the Soviet Union while only 24 per cent. have confidence in the United States. When it comes to desire for world domination, 17 per cent. consider that to be the main interest of the Soviet Union and 32 per cent. think it to be the main interest of the United States. When asked about credit for the disarmament agreement—the INF—only 10 per cent. think that the United States should get the major credit——

Order. The right hon. Member has precisely 20 seconds left.

I appreciate the time constraint that is upon us, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I shall draw my remarks to a conclusion.

For 40 years the cold war has dominated the politics and economics of the House and the country. We have hope in 1988, and it must be our task to seize the possibility of looking to the 1990s and the next century so that we can reallocate the money and the skills that are wasted on weapons of mass destruction to create the means of life for those who are condemned to die because resources are being wasted instead of being made available to meet their needs.

For these reasons I shall be voting against the Defence Estimates tonight. I believe that they represent a burden that the British people should not pay, and a burden that world events make it unnecessary for us to pay.

8.9 pm

If there were time, I should take great pleasure in shooting down in flames the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) point by point. Will he never learn? Three general elections have not shown him what the British public want. He is not the only person to be out of step with the British nation. That highlights how fortunate we are to have my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and his ministerial colleagues, who are pursuing sensible defence policies, cutting out waste and maintaining security for Britain now and in future.

I support the efforts that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is making to persuade the Treasury, and perhaps the Star Chamber, to maintain our defence spending, or perhaps to increase it. We must be careful about expenditure, but defence spending is falling behind other areas of spending and there is much to do if we are to support the United States and NATO and look after our own responsibilities.

In exchange for this support for the Secretary of State I ask him to make one or two small switches of emphasis. We should move marginally away from our hi-tech weapons, some of which are of doubtful effectiveness, towards personnel. Recruiting will be tight in the 1990s; we must retain what we have; we shall have to compete in a difficult market for new recruits. Pay is not the essential aspect. Conditions of service and fringe benefits are. We must examine them carefully and help our forces in every way. Housing is always a prominent issue among service men. They all want to own their houses, but need to know where and how they can do that on mortgages. Our service men frequently have to move, and hence their children must frequently change schools. They need support for that. All these things are terribly important. We always hear—rightly—from Ministers about how they are trying to help with the simplification of service life, but that always seems to be about to happen tomorrow. When will it happen today?

The second tiny switch of emphasis has to do with the value for money that we obtain from our reserves. They are extremely effective and cost effective, and a small change in the amount of money available to them would be highly beneficial. Many hon. Members have spoken about the TA, the RNVR and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and the Home Service Force, together with the cadets in those forces. They deserve excellent equipment, the best facilities and a proper promotion structure in each service. Too often experienced officers in their forties find they have nowhere to go.

The great initiative of recent months under Brigadier Tommy Macpherson to highlight to the nation the importance of our reserves and their value to the MOD is highly commendable, and I hope that it will be successful with our employers, who have a significant part to play in the promotion of our reserves.

I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces is coming to the south of Scotland next month to talk about low flying, which is an important issue there. I am sure that he will strike the right balance and explain how essential it is for Royal Air Force pilots to maintain a significant level of low flying. The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) mentioned how important it is to maintain the search and rescue facility at Leuchars for central Scotland. It would be inconceivable if 22 squadron were removed from Leuchars or 202 squadron from Lossiemouth. I am quite sure that the distinguished Air Officer (Scotland and Northern Ireland), Air Vice-Marshal David Brook, is fighting his corner hard over what is an important issue for Scotland—not only for the services but for the community at large. My hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) and others—and I—have all paid tribute to the search and rescue service.

Turning to Royal Ordnance, I am as concerned as anyone else about the closure of Bishopton, because of the large number of lost jobs that will ensue in an area of high unemployment. I want to discuss the knock-on or knock-off effect that that will have on the Royal Ordnance factory at Powfoot in my constituency, which is managed effectively and efficiently by ICI Nobel. It has a full order book and is the only factory in the United Kingdom manufacturing tubular propellant for all British small arms ammunition. It was the subject of a five-year agreement between RO and the MOD. I stress that it is the only indigenous provider of the propellant that we require for our small arms ammunition.

In 1985 Royal Ordnance gave ICI notice to quit. I went to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), then Secretary of State for Defence, and he gladly gave me a stay of execution into the 1990s, which was good news. This year, however, Royal Ordnance said that it would remove the production line in 1990 to Bishopton. Then, a few weeks ago, came the announcement that Bishopton was to close. Where is this production line to be taken now? It is quite wrong that we should buy the propellant that we need from America or the continent—for example, from Czechoslovakia, where it is manufactured with Communist Government subsidy —given that it is a crucial powder for our ammunition. Will the Minister examine the matter, not in terms of Royal Ordnance's rights as a company, but in the light of the factory's being the only supplier of this gunpowder in this country. Surely we cannot go into the 1990s without it. I hope for a response from the Minister as soon as possible.

A further knock-off effect will be that if we do not have Powfoot we shall not need to make nitrocellulose at Dumfries, which will mean a further loss of jobs. Royal Ordnance must not lose sight of its reponsiblility to the community as well as to the MOD and its shareholders. I am not climbing on the bandwagon of those who complain about property development. RO is jolly lucky if it can sell Powfoot or give it away after it has been sterilised following years and years of high explosives production.

I am delighted with the firm policies developed by my right hon. Friend for this country. He is on the right lines and has my entire support. I hope that he will look into support for personnel in the services, at their conditions of service, and will give me a favourable reply on what is to become of the unique production line in my constituency which now seems severely threatened and stands to lose 140 jobs. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to reverse that decision.

8.18 pm

The hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) nicely opened the way for me to follow him by discussing the Royal Ordnance factories.

Today, a lobby of working men and women from Bishopton and Patricroft in my constituency was here. They came to protest at the closure of the factory, pointing out the effect that the loss of their jobs would have on communities that already suffer, in many cases, from unemployment that is well above the national average.

The workers also asked, and I repeat their request, for an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee into the background of the privatisation of Royal Ordnance and what has flowed from that. If the speculation in The Independent and the fears that were first expressed in the MOD's report about the sale of the Royal Ordnance factories, which was commented on by the Comptroller and Auditor General, is all wrong, the Government have nothing to fear. They will hold a public inquiry, we shall have egg on our faces and they will come out of it with no more stains on their rather spotty characters than they have now. I do not understand the resistance to such an inquiry. The disclosures since the leak during the week of the Labour party conference, where I first picked up the news on the television, have given people cause for concern about what is happening.

My concern about the background to the privatisation started some time ago. When I took over the Eccles constituency from Lewis Carter-Jones, he handed me a file on the subject. I also raised the matter with the Leader of the House. who was standing in for the Prime Minister on 11 February. I asked him to put pressure on his colleagues in the Ministry of Defence
"to answer the criticisms of the Comptroller and Auditor General about the privatisation of the Royal Ordnance Factory"
because the Minister had refused to answer them. I pointed out the cheapness of the way in which the deal was carried out, and the fact that
"dividends were waived to make the company more attractive and … the delay in the transfer of pension rights and redundancy pay made this whole operation exceedingly expensive."
The Leader of the House replied:
"I think that the hon. Lady misses the important point. The important point is that there were difficulties in the armament procurement industry. That industry will be much better under privatisation than it ever would under state control."—[Official Report, 11 February 1988; Vol. 127, c. 498.]
A few months later we were told, as the hon. Member for Dumfries stressed, that two factories—others have already closed—were to close. In particular, that at Patricroft is to be closed. There are grave doubts surrounding the background to this matter and the way in which the Royal Ordnance factories were sold off to British Aerospace.

Earlier, one of my hon. Friends mentioned the soothing noises that were made by the Ministry of Defence. I have a letter dated February 1987 from Lord Trefgarne to Lewis Carter-Jones stating:
"Whilst your constituents may be concerned about the introduction of competition into the procurement of ammunition, Royal Ordnance with its long history of producing these stores will stand a good chance of winning the orders for our further requirements."
Lord Trefgarne went on to comment on how well Royal Ordnance was already doing. Soothing noises were made, and I can refer to another letter dated 30 November, which made similar soothing noises.

When the leak finally came and the unions took up the matter, they were told that production at the closed Royal Ordnance factories would go to other Royal Ordnance factories. However, we now know that the company is looking both nationally and internationally for other plants. Three joint ventures are planned. I should like an assurance that none of the work from Patricroft or Bishopton will go to the planned joint ventures in Chile, Brazil and Kentucky. If we are to have an armaments industry, and if we are to supply our defence forces, it appears, if those reports are true, that we shall be moving production to non-NATO countries where there is no agreed quality assurance in respect of propellant and ammunition standards. If we are saying—and of course we are not—that an arms industry is no longer needed in this country, the talents of the highly skilled men and women who have been employed in it should be applied elsewhere. There is plenty of social and other need in the community which those skills could be used to meet. But no, we now find that those goods are to be bought elsewhere.

My constituency has an above average level of unemployment. It has been starved of investment and of growth, and over the years its traditional industries have declined. We had a spark of hope when £160 million was invested in the Trafford park development scheme, which begins just 100 yards from the Royal Ordnance factory that is to be closed with the loss of more than 1,000 jobs. It makes a nonsense of putting money into a development scheme in the hope of producing more jobs when at the same time the door is closed on more than 1,000 jobs nearby, in a situation that has very shady surroundings.

Skills there are to be left lying dormant. The knock-on effect on the community will be colossal in respect of both employment and local trading losses. Families will be plummeted into poverty. More and more youngsters in that area are being left without hope. They have looked to Patricroft and other places for some form of apprentice-ship and for hope for the future. As was said by one of my hon. Friends yesterday in respect of Bishopton, the Royal Ordnance factories have become family concerns employing fathers and sons, and so on. Already large numbers of young people in my constituency have been left without hope for the future.

We shall soon hear Conservative Members saying that those unemployed could work if they wanted to do so and that they are not getting on their bikes looking for jobs. The truth is that there is no more work available in my area. If that industry had declined, we would want to use the skills of those people in some other way. However, that is not the case, because that production is being sent elsewhere. People are being denied the right to work, and we are robbing our defence industry of assured equipment quality.

As far as we can tell, British Aerospace is making a financial killing by selling out the jobs of my constituents. That is how we see it, and that is how the people of Eccles see it. That is how it is viewed by the people in all the areas affected. It is nonsense for the Government to shrug it off. Every Conservative Member who has spoken, with the exception of the hon. Member for Dumfries, has said, "It is a pity about the unemployment, but…" There should be no "but" about unemployment. I say again to the Minister that if the stories about the background to this development are wrong, if we are wrong, and if the unions are wrong, the Government have nothing to fear from an inquiry, because we shall be the ones made to look silly and not them. I urge the Government to think again.

8.24 pm

I shall not attempt to go down the path followed by the hon. Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor) in respect of the Royal Ordnance factories, particularly with reference to that in her own constituency, except to say that it is vital that a large number of alternative industries are available in towns so that they are not dependent on one particular type. That is certainly the case in Eccles. Corby is a marvellous example of a town that was wholly dependent on one industry, but which is no longer so dependent—and it is now a boom town. I hope that the hon. Lady's constituents will find that in the not-too-distant future other employment opportunities are made available to those who are dedicated and who wish to use their skills. Therefore, I am not as pessimistic as the hon. Member for Eccles.

I thank my hon. Friend the Minister of State for his mention of the work and assistance given by the Royal Army Medical Corps following the Dharan earthquake. The services provide important assistance in emergencies, which is often not appreciated or realised by the agencies that demand that we provide more aid. We have those forces and resources readily available in many parts of the world. It is important that we should be able to provide assistance at short notice. That is what happened in Dharan, and I am delighted that our services did so well there. Complete surgical teams were promptly ferried out from Hong Kong, supplemented by experts from this country, and a permanent base was established. I hope to visit Dharan next month, when, I understand, the services there will be running down because they are to be relocated. Had the earthquake occurred six months later, it would have been much more difficult to provide assistance. I hope that in reviewing the services that the Army was able to provide my hon. Friend will seek to ensure that there is some continuity and that those people who have settled near Dharan will not be left without medical cover of the kind upon which they have come to rely for such a long time, when the British Army moves its Gurkha recruitment base, as it plans to do in the next few weeks.

Under the same heading, we must also give credit to the work of the Royal Navy after the recent hurricane in Jamaica. It was able to send in a patrol vessel and to provide substantial assistance at short notice. Such help does not appear in any acknowledgement of the aid that we provide. A number of other countries provide more aid in pounds, shillings and pence, but they do not have on hand the type of services that we can provide in emergencies.

The second point I wish to address concerns our reserve forces. Other hon. Members have mentioned the extremely good value for money that our reserves represent. I recall that the last time a calculation was made at my request the cost of providing a reserve soldier was only 10 per cent. of that of providing a regular soldier because of the extra provision made for accommodation, pensions and education.

Therefore, reserve soldiers represent extremely good value for money. It is not possible for them to take over completly because a minimum number of regular soldiers must always be provided to fulfil the role of the regular forces. All through our history, over many hundreds of years, the reserve forces have had an important role to play. However, because of our NATO commitments, we have come to expect a very great deal from them. We have been using them as a trade-off because of the lack of national service, and that has put an enormous strain on the lives of those part-time soldiers, sailors and, in some cases, airmen. That is one of the main reasons why we are having difficulty in retaining recruits.

Plenty of young men and women are able and willing to offer their services, but often they sadly find that the commitment does not fit in with their domestic lives. We must do some serious thinking about that, because those young people are vital if we are to ensure that we need not call upon a national service, which most regular forces would regret.

One aspect to which we do not pay enough attention is the social side, particularly for junior ranks. The training required is often onerous, because the soldiers and their commanders are of course anxious that their service should reach virtually "regular" quality. I well understand that the commanders want to achieve that standard, but it often means that families are neglected. We must try to make up for that by ensuring that there are extremely good clubs for junior ranks, particularly for the benefit of their wives and families. In my view, the reserve forces should have the best club in any neighbourhood, without exception. I think we should then find that many who have passed through their service would wish to contribute by coming back to help with the facilities.

I know that time is limited and that many others wish to speak, so I shall not detain the House for long, but I should like to raise one or two other matters. The first concerns helicopters. I know that 25 utility helicopters have been ordered. Continuity is important to the helicopter industry if it is to exist. The helicopters were originally due to start being delivered in the early 1990s, but I understand that delivery may now be put back to the mid-1990s. If that happens there will be further employment repercussions, for without continuity it is impossible to keep together the skilled work forces that are so essential. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will have something to say about that later.

There is also the question of the offset for the Boeing AWACS deal that was done in 1986. Let me refresh my hon. Friend's memory. It was agreed that Boeing would provide new expenditure of 130 per cent. of the cost of the AWACS, which would have meant a total expenditure in this country of £1,300 million. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would say a little about that. I should like to be reassured that things are going well and that progress will not be too prolonged.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) on joining the Opposition Front Bench team, and thank him for the kind remarks that he made about me yesterday in connection with the armed forces parliamentary scheme. I am delighted that everything in which he has been involved has been going so well. It is possible, of course, that his appointment had something to do with it; nevertheless, it is very good news. I hope that the scheme will be expanded, and that other hon. Members on both sides of the House will have an opportunity to participate when it is launched officially later in the year.

In this connection I am most grateful to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for all his help and encouragement.

8.34 pm

The glossy cover for the Defence Estimates, with three nuclear submarines in a wonderful setting, shows how much the Government romanticise and glorify the nuclear arms race. Nuclear weapons are the Governments steroid fix. They would fail any drug test because they are addicted to the magic mushroom—the nuclear one. The Prime Minister wants every new one that is going: Trident, battlefield nuclear artillery, the Army tactical missile system, short-range nukes to follow on from Lance, the replacement of free-fall bombs—TASM—nuclear depth charges, submarine-launched cruise missiles, more United States F111 hydrogen bombers, and the air-launched cruise missile to follow. The Prime Minister calls it modernisation, but it is cheating on the spirit of the INF agreement. She is rearming when the people of the world want disarmament.

This new arms race, embodied in the Defence Estimates, goes against the grain of Britain's and the world's interests. A good deal of environmental pollution is nuclear. Chernobyl and Sellafield are examples of the abysmal record, and we can now add another example, that of Fernald in Cincinnati, Ohio, where thousands of tonnes of nuclear waste have been released into the atmosphere and the water supply in the production of material for nuclear weapons. The Government are at present sitting on a report of significantly higher than normal leukaemia and other cancer clusters at Aldermaston and Burghfield.

Tackling the poverty and famine that so scar the face and conscience of the world is not compatible with massive arms expenditure. The economies of the super-powers are overburdened. What perestroika is all about is to get money to the people, the consumers, in the Soviet Union, but that cannot be done while there is such high spending on defence. The United States is one of the biggest debtor nations of the world, and its defence commitments contribute to that.

There is also the serious danger of nuclear proliferation. The Governments flying of plutonium to the Japanese is a scandal if ever there was one. I was on a delegation led by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) to see the Iraqi ambassador about Iraq's use of chemical weapons. He virtually said to us, "If we had nuclear weapons, we would use them in defence of our country. You in Britain have them; why shouldn't we?" Government practice is encouraging that sort of attitude. Instead of getting out of the nuclear arms race and encouraging others to do so, we are moving more and more to politically usable nuclear weapons.

The MOD is on record as saying that nuclear weapons can be used
"to demonstrate that NATO has the capability and will to use its nuclear weapons in a deliberate, politically controlled way … (with the objective of restoring deterrence by inducing the aggressor to make the decision to terminate his aggression and withdraw)".
Presumably that would justify the use of nuclear weapons against Argentina in a future Falklands conflict.

The new nuke-speak refers to the "single shot" or "selective strike". The Prime Minister is aiming towards another Hiroshima, or perhaps a future attack against a troublesome Third world nation. That would truly be a third world war. The Government even contemplate the use of Trident—the equivalent of 2,000 Hiroshimas, a global orgy of world death including our own.

Trident is not independent: its missiles are targeted and serviced by the United States and are under NATO—in reality, US—control. It is a potential first strike weapon. Trident's use, and our obliteration as a consequence, is in reality in the hands of the United States President, perhaps even Dan Quayle, who, in his inexperience, may be tempted to use it in the European theatre while he stays in his bunker avoiding the draft, so to speak.

The Foreign Secretary talks of Trident being an irreducible minimum deterrent, but when he is asked to define "irreducible", he says that it relates to what the environment has to face. I will tell him what the environment has to face. It is the super-powers reducing their nuclear weapons. So why are the Government going for the massive increase that Trident is all about? They even refuse to put it on the negotiating table. The Government's stance is:
"no further reductions in nuclear weapons in Europe until imbalance of conventional forces has been removed and a global ban on chemical weapons achieved."
What a foolish set of conditions. There should be simultaneous negotiations on all three aspects. That condition amounts to a block on further nuclear disarmament.

In their evidence to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs the Government talk of
"the need for residual force entitlements to rcmain at, or near, current NATO levels."
Again, that is the minimum necessary. It says that after reductions residual ceilings will have to be near or at the current NATO force levels. The Ministry of Defence is blocking serious negotiated reductions by saying that it will not make any. That is the MOD's perpetual bleat, despite the opportunity for substantial reductions on both sides. One of those opportunities is in conventional forces, where there is a great opportunity for reductions.

A West German paper entitled "Security for Europe" talks about a phased reduction in tanks coming down from about 80,000 to 10,000 on each side by the year 2000. That would be an asymmetrical phased reduction. Front-line strike aircraft and helicopter gunships would be cut to an equal ceiling of 500 on each side. Then it says that we should reduce the armed forces and their associated armaments by exchanging military data, by mutual at-site inspections in the process of verification, and by reducing the number of troops and officers in Europe by half, with either totally demilitarised zones or at least partially demilitarised zones where the most offensive and dangerous weapons are taken out. It also talks of confidence-building measures so that we set up a European military danger reduction centre of the sort that was agreed between the United States and the Soviet Union in September 1987. We could perhaps set up international fax hot lines. One has been in existence between the United States and the Soviet Union since 1963.

In addition, there need to be measures to avoid a technological arms race. That is the basis for negotiation which should be actively pursued by the Government to bring down enormously our defence costs and those of the world.

In conclusion, I recommend a pamphlet produced by Labour Action for Peace entitled "Welfare or Warfare? Cutting the cost of militarism". It talks about how the cost has increased 28 per cent. in real terms under the Government. Since the war, £240,000 million has been spent on war preparations. It describes how we consistently spend more than our industrial competitors and how our military commitments overseas plunge us into debt on our balance of payments. It also points out that, if we cut defence spending to the level of Japan or Germany or other of our competitors in western Europe, £6,000 million a year would be released for spending on civilian industries, health, education and other welfare services.

That is the direction in which we should be going. It is time that we turned back those high defence costs and made Britain, Europe and the world a safer place.

8.44 pm

The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) is a likeable chap but his speech was absurd. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister does not want any weapon systems that are not strictly necessary for defence. She does not want to use nuclear weapons, but it is her public pronouncement that she would use them if necessary which prevents not just nuclear war but all war. That is a fact and the hon. Gentleman cannot escape it.

This debate has been characterised by some interesting speeches from the Labour Back Benches. It has also been characterised by a speech from the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill), notable for what it did not say rather than for what it did.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfleld (Mr. Benn) is an honest man. He represents the "peace at any price" movement in the Labour party, but at least he is honest. The right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) is honest. He represents the "peace from strength" movement in the Labour party, although I question whether it is still a movement. I suspect that it is a dwindling band of people.

But the hon. Member for Clackmannan, who speaks on behalf of the Labour party, seems to represent the "peace at any price unless it might lose us the next general election" movement within the Labour party. He spoke for 50 minutes. His speech was masterly. He dealt with a number of interesting issues which were not central to what the House should be talking about. He did not touch at all upon nuclear strategy, on which I am sure the House would have wanted to hear his views. When I pressed him all he said was:
"I am whole-heartedly behind the present moves to reduce the threat of nuclear war on the continent and throughout the world."—[Official Report, 19 October 1988; Vol. 138, c. 918.]
What does that mean? It means nothing and it was designed to mean nothing. That statement, which I enticed, was the only statement made by the hon. Gentleman on nuclear policy. It could have been made by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield or my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. It is meaningless.

The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) also made an interesting speech. We all know that she used to lead the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Her speech was also like the dog that did not bark in the night. Is she ratting on her unilateralism? Why did she not mention it? She is rather like a person who has wandered into a desert, sees a mirage in the distance and rushes helter-skelter for it. The desert that she has wandered into is the unilateralism that she espouses and which she realises, as a shrewd and ambitious politician, is losing the Labour party election after election. The mirage to which she and the whole Labour party are rushing towards is the belief that recent developments in the Soviet Union, glasnost and perestroika—those expressions that have a cosy Slavic ring about them—have fundamentally changed the ball game when it comes to defence policy.

When I listen to the Labour party I am reminded of a story that I was told recently in Lincoln cathedral of the rabbi and the poor man. The poor man goes to the rabbi and says, "Rabbi, rabbi, how can I live in dignity with eight children in two rooms?" The rabbi says, "Go out and bring your cow in from the field and you will live with dignity." He does it and things get worse. He goes to the rabbi and the rabbi tells him to bring in his chickens. Things get worse. The rabbi tells him to bring in his pig. Things get even worse. The poor man goes to the rabbi and tells him, "Things are desperate." The rabbi tells him, "Go back to your home. Take away the cow, chickens and the pig." The poor man comes back and says, "Yes, rabbi, things are perfect. I can live in peace and dignity."

Why is that relevant? It is simply because, like the poor man in that parable, the Labour party in the shape of Ernie Bevin in 1948 said that such had been the violations of Yalta by the Soviet Union that we had to form NATO. For 40 years violation after violation is heaped upon Europe. The Prague spring, Hungary—[Interruption.] It is no good Labour Members jeering. This is what lies behind the need for a strong defence policy. Finally, those developments culminated in the invasion of Afghanistan and the unilateral deployment of SS 20 missiles without provocation targeted on western cities. Those missiles are now being withdrawn, thanks to the wise statesmanship of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and President Reagan. Incidentally, the hon. Member for Deptford made an extraordinary comment on that yesterday.

The Soviet Union has withdrawn from Afghanistan —no thanks to Mr. Gorbachev but thanks to the brave resistance of the Mujahidin, resourced by western nations. Just because those two developments have taken place. like the poor man in that parable the Labour party says that all is now sweetness and light.

But what is the true test of detente? What is the true test of what is happening in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe? Has the Berlin wall been taken down? Is there freedom in Prague? We were reminded only yesterday of current troop strengths. The internationally respected International Institute for Strategic Studies reminded us that the Soviet Union is not reducing its conventional forces in Europe to produce the reasonable sufficiency that is required for peace. It reminded us that NATO countries have 22,000 tanks and the Warsaw Pact 53,000. In terms of artillery, NATO has 10,000 and the Warsaw Pact 35,000. NATO has 4,000 combat aircraft, whereas the Warsaw Pact has 7,000. NATO has 864 helicopters, whereas the Warsaw Pact has 1,165.

The recent developments in the Soviet Union have changed nothing. In many ways, things are worse than they were in the late 1970s. I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench, and in particular to my right hon. Friends at the Treasury, that we would give the wrong message in the current climate, and during this delicate stage as the presidential election in the United States moves towards its climax, if there were to be a significant cut in the Defence Estimates and if they did not keep pace with inflation. We have to keep on the plateau that was decreed when we formulated our NATO commitments.

My hon. Friends the Members for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) and for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) dealt with the tank issue. I do not believe that they were entirely serious when they said that the Chieftain tank should not be replaced. That would be absurd. By the year 2010 the Chieftain tank will be 50 years old. There has to be a replacement for it. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench will bear in mind the serious logistical and manpower problems that would arise if a British tank were not ordered. It is unthinkable that a decision could be taken not to order a British tank.

I hope also that my right hon. and hon. Friends will deal with the problems that would arise if undue pressure were to be put on certain companies not to provide a British gun. The negotiations are at a delicate stage. I suspect that I am preaching to the converted on the Treasury Bench, but British companies would be very seriously affected if the policy were to change, particularly with regard to exports to the middle east.

As for land disposal, an editorial in The Daily Telegraph this week pointed out that the Ministry of Defence is the third largest landowner in the country. It has about 3,000 sites. The Ministry needs to do much more about realising its precious assets. If necessary, a Minister must concentrate full-time on realising them. I have seen an example of the non-realisation of assets in my constituency at Hemswell. The saga has continued for about 10 years. Hemswell was abandoned by the Royal Air Force. Since then, very little has been done. Luckily, progress is now being made, thanks to free enterprise. RAF Binbrook, which the RAF is vacating this year, will provide the opportunity for a £100 million development of private housing. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will grasp the opportunities that have been provided.

To return to my theme of peace through strength, if the viper withdraws its fangs the wise man does not lay down his stick. He does not throw it to the ground, as the right hon. Member for Chesterfield would do. Furthermore, he does not do what the leader of the Labour party wants to do—throw it to the ground and multilaterally offer part of it to the viper in return for one fang. Instead, the wise man adopts the statesmenship that has been followed by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister—to talk peace and modernise defences. As long as we have that, I shall have confidence in the Estimates and in the Treasury Bench.

8.54 pm

The argument that we should negotiate from strength is very dangerous. It might be mirrored exactly by those in the Soviet Union who hold the same daft ideas as have been put forward today. They might argue, "We need more nuclear weapons in order to negotiate with Thatcher and her cronies."

The Tories are talking about a totally immoral and un-Christian threat of mass extermination. They rise to their feet when there are terrorist outrages in Northern Ireland and decry the loss of human life and limb. They do it time after time, yet tonight they are talking about the use of weapons that would destroy millions of men, women and children. The hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) confirmed that the Prime Minister is prepared to use nuclear weapons for international policy purposes. That is outrageous. The argument is that we should never use them but that they are there. If, however, nuclear weapons are to be a deterrent, there must be an intention to use them whenever the chiefs of staff and the Prime Minister decide that it is right to do so. The threat of mass extermination, involving the possession and deployment of nuclear weapons, is immoral.

The Minister failed earlier to answer the question that I put to him. If, as the Government claim, Polaris has kept the peace, why are we embarking on a replacement for it that will be between four and 10 times more powerful, depending on the number of missiles to be used? The expenditure on it is massive. Prestige—nothing else—is involved. The Government are spending £11 billion on Trident, yet some of their poodles in Bradford are to sack 9,000 workers just to save £3 million or £4 million. What are the correct priorities—to preserve jobs and services in Bradford or to spend £11 billion on producing an even more effective means of mass extermination?

The House welcomed the INF agreement and the legislation that provides immunity for Soviet inspectors to observe the reduction in nuclear forces. The Opposition welcomed it with enthusiasm, but modernisation is a euphemism for cheating. The Government are going behind the back of the INF agreement in order to increase and develop nuclear weapons. They were not involved in the INF agreement, apart from a few telephone calls between the Prime Minister and the President of the United States and a cup of tea with the bold and courageous leader, Mr. Gorbachev, on the tarmac at Brize Norton. However, by their foolish actions, the Government are potentially prejudicing a very important beginning; it affects only a tiny proportion of the nuclear weapons that are held in stockpiles throughout the world —about 3 or 4 per cent.

How does the Minister reconcile massive expenditure on nuclear weapons with our signature on the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty? We are told that treaties involve a solemn obligation. We signed that treaty, as did 133 non-nuclear nations. They signed it in good faith, on the basis that they would not manufacture or deploy nuclear weapons. If that is good enough for them, why does the United Kingdom always have to have nuclear weapons?

What will the United Kingdom say to nations that have rejected nuclear weapons—"It is all right for us to have them but it is not all right for you to have them."? That argument can be turned around. Non-nuclear nations could say, "If the United Kingdom feels that it is necessary to have nuclear weapons for defence, why should we not do the same and break the treaty?" They have said in two review conferences that the nuclear signatories—the United Kingdom, the Soviet: Union and the United States —are breaking the treaty. The Soviet Union and the United States, however, are following clause 6 of the treaty which commits signatories which are nuclear powers to negotiate in good faith to remove nuclear weapons. The only nuclear signatory to the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty which is in breach of it is the United Kingdom

Do the Government care about their international obligations or do they not? When will they satisfy the 133 non-nuclear nations that they will follow clause 6 and, more important, by their actions persuade the non-nuclear nations not to follow our terrible example and go nuclear?

One way in which the United Kingdom could meet its obligations is for it to include in the Estimates an item for arms conversion. The matter should not divide the House. Whether arms reduction is achieved through multilateralism or unilateralism, it must be possible that, by the early 1990s, Britain will have dispensed with Trident and other nuclear warheads. I refer to warheads and other parts manufactured in such places as the atomic weapons establishment in Cardiff.

There should be an item in the Estimates to prepare nuclear establishments such as Aldermaston, Burghfield and Cardiff, which are heavily involved in the manufacture of the British nuclear deterrent, for the possibility of converting to civilian production. They have done it before. Space age materials such as uranium, beryllium, zirconium and titanium are of great value to the hospital service and for specialised machinery used elsewhere.

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend, who has made a valuable point. If the Government intend to support moves towards peace, they should provide in the Estimates for some skills to be transferred. Although only a nominal number of people may be involved at first, it is an important principle. The Government could usefully embark on retraining for peace as a demonstration of what they often proclaim, although their actions indicate the reverse.

Why can other NATO countries be non-nuclear? The Prime Minister went to Canada and spoke to the Canadian Prime Minister. Did she rebuke him because the Canadians do not allow nuclear weapons on their soil? They will not, for example, have nuclear-powered cruise missiles. The only time that there were cruise missiles on Canadian soil, there was an absolute embargo on their use for nuclear purposes. They were flight-tested only as a contribution to NATO. The Canadians' stance remains that they will not have nuclear weapons on their soil.

Canada is not the only member of NATO. The Government have an opportunity to push NATO away from what is called "flexible response", but which involves first use of nuclear weapons. Roughly speaking, the idea is that if the Soviets book Sealink and the rest to come here to take us over and we fail to hold them with conventional forces, we should use nuclear weapons and effectively blow up the world.

NATO's first use of nuclear weapons should be stopped. We should move back from the brink, not endorse the idea of first use, which is potentially disastrous.

If those who believe in nuclear weapons are so frightened of the Soviet Union—their leader has described Mr. Gorbachev as bold and courageous—they should take a suicide pill, not support mass extermination. Nobody will come to the House saying that we will have a Division on whether to use nuclear weapons and that hon. Members should go to the Aye or No Lobby to establish who makes the decision. The Prime Minister and perhaps the Secretary of State for Defence and a few cronies from the chiefs of staff will make the decision. How undemocratic that is! It is an affront to civilisation.

Those who believe in the threat of mass extermination should commit suicide and let us get on with living. There might be much enthusiasm for the Prime Minister setting an example. That might be more widely welcomed on Conservative Benches than she thinks. There is a very strong case for getting rid of nuclear weapons.

I have been a unilateralist since the early 1960s, when I was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I believe that we can persuade the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom of the sense and sensibility of this course. That is the principle that we should stick by.

9.4 pm

Before beginning my six-minute speech, may I declare an interest as an active member of the Territorial Army.

In three weeks' time, we shall observe Remembrance Sunday. This year, it will be of special significance because it will be the 70th anniversary of 1918—the end of the great war, or the war to end all wars. Unfortunately, at the same time, we shall be remembering the dead of the second world war, a war brought about by an aggressor who gained encouragement from our apparent weakness. We should all remember that and vow, this Remembrance Sunday, to ourselves and for future generations that no apparent weakness on our part will lead to war. We really should remember that, particularly when we come to defence budgets.

Peace is always under threat and I would like to mention as many of the threats as time allows. First, there is the change in the perceived military threat. History shows us that there are three basic kinds of peace. There is the peace of death that greeted Germany at the end of the second world war. There is the peace of deterrence under which we live now on an East-West basis. Thirdly, there is the peace of détente—for example, the present peace between Germany and France. On a strategic European basis, we have grown accustomed to the peace of deterrence, but Mr. Gorbachev appears—and I emphasise the word "appears"—to offer a chance to move towards a new type of peace, a peace of détente.

What are they really up to in the Russian camp? Since the INF treaty we hear increased talk not about defence but about defensive defence. Meanwhile, the Soviets maintain their teaching, tactics, organisation and equipment for fast, surprise attack. As yet there is no reality in defensive defence.

Secondly, I would like to mention the cultural threat. Mr. Gorbachev is not only popular, but very well-known throughout the West. He is known not merely as Gorbachev, but as Gorby. He has proposed a new type of peace, that of detente, which is very attractive to the western grass roots. It sounds good, as if it might be cheaper. He also has great ability, using his western style charisma, to talk over the heads of Western leaders and negotiators directly to the grass roots throughout the western world. He is widening the defence debate from out of chambers like this to the grass roots throughout the Western world.

Today, everyone seems to have a view on defence. Unfortunately, many of those views are based on a woeful lack of knowledge and a belief that defence is somehow simple when, in reality, it is extremely complex. I believe that the Government have a duty now to improve not only the knowledge but the quality of thinking about defence in this wider debate. We must not be content merely to issue information from the Ministry of Defence on a passive basis but must take an active role in teaching, organising seminars, and bringing trade union leaders, lawyers, school teachers, bankers, students and those sort of people into these seminars so that they learn to think in a more informed way about defence and to participate in quality debate. In this respect I very much support the parliamentary armed services scheme.

My third point is about defence spending. At a time when the strategic East-West peace of deterrence is changing—even, apparently, towards a peace of detente —new and hitherto unexpected enemies may be tempted to threaten us. It would be very unwise for us to assume that the Soviet Union is, or will remain our sole enemy. I note with interest that the intended exercises in Switzerland this year are not only against the orange forces from the east but against the blue forces from the west.

Defence spending in the United Kingdom is a measure not just of our money or wealth but of our national commitment and will to defend ourselves. It is watched worldwide. Costa Mendez saw that before the Falklands. It is an example to our NATO allies. It is a message to our potential enemies. Any effective cut in our defensive capability would be a staggering thing to contemplate at the moment, particularly in the light of the forthcoming American presidential election and the problems of burden-sharing. I therefore strongly support my right hon. Friend in his struggle with the Treasury for the realistic funding that he asked for at the very beginning.

Yes, £1·4 billion. Obviously, we must strive for value for money and cutting waste. But cutting waste is not the same as cutting costs. Some costs are necessary to do business.

There are many things that I would like to suggest, but one I should like to make in the last ten seconds is this: why do we not allow the men and women on the spot in the armed forces to suggest cuts, and give them a financial incentive for doing so—maybe 50 per cent. of the cut achieved in the first year—as a bonus to their pay? Then we would get cuts made by people inside the armed forces and not exclusively by people outside the armed forces who have little or no practical experience, and often risk in their recommendations the cutting of bone rather than fat.

9.10 pm

It is customary in defence White Paper debates to pay tribute to the men and women in our armed forces, and I add my support and that of my party to that which has been expressed by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House.

I also echo the demand made so eloquently by my hon. Friends the Members for Eccles (Miss Lestor), for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham) and for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the sale of two former Royal Ordnance factories. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy), in a very powerful speech, spoke of the lulling, almost deceiving, presentation of the White Paper. My only disagreement with him is that I would remove the qualification "almost".

After the hilarity which greeted the 1987 White Paper's attempt at historical perspective, some of us thought that the Secretary of State, or at least his script writers, might have been a bit more circumspect this year—but not a bit of it. This year we are not given just history; we are entertained to a consideration of theory.

As I read through chapter 1 of this year's White Paper, I was reminded of a similar publication which established historical fact and arrived at a considered judgment in much the same way, "1066 And All That" by Sellar and Yeatman. Hon. Members familiar with that classic will recall how the authors were able to classify everything as either "Good Things" or "Bad Things" so that the Norman conquest, the great plague and the American war of independence were all good things, while Mary Tudor, political economy and Napoleon were all bad things. The defence White Paper is written in exactly that style. The big difference is that Sellar and Yeatman wrote their classic as a spoof. I take it that the Government are deadly serious.

Let us remind the House of just one gem from the White Paper, although as The Observer review of "1066 And All That" said:
"Quotation is hopeless: every sentence clamours for it."
In paragraph 4 on page 5 of the White Paper is a confident assertion that
"Soviet operational art … has its roots in a long-standing tradition of defending the homeland by taking the offensive."
I do not want to exaggerate, but that is a bit rich coming from the Tories. If we take the year 1815 as the date when we became top nation—I cannot remember whether that is a phrase from the White Paper of from "1066 And All That"—a cursory glance at the history books suggests that we have been involved in at least 52 significant wars. In all our 52 wars of self defence, we have had two opium wars, two Sikh wars, two Maori wars, three Burmese wars and four Ashanti wars. We completed a third Maratha war and the eighth and ninth Kaffir wars. We even managed an invasion of Afghanistan. Indeed, to prove to the Russians that anything they might do we could do better, we invaded and occupied that country twice. [Interruption.] Not since 1815.

It gives me no pleasure to recall those unsavoury events which earned our country such a sinister reputation in so many parts of the world and prompted so many people to suspect our motives and fear our ambitions. If we use history to demonstrate the threat perception of the enemy, we must have the gumption to realise that our enemy will use our history to demonstrate their threat perception of us. It helps to have a more balanced view. It helps to move away from the infantile historical perspectives that seem to characterise the Government's defence White Papers. The Prime Minister had the cheek to tell the Conservative women's national conference in May this year that the Labour party needs to have a better understanding of history. Even the Prime Minister's impertinence pales in comparison with that of the Secretary of State for Education and Science who, on his recent visit to a Moscow school, declared to his hosts, with Mellor-like diplomacy, that we all had to acknowledge that history was a problem for the Soviets. It is not half as much of a problem for them as it is for the Tory party.

It is not just the Government's historical background that is inaccurate. In their statistical comparisons between NATO and the Warsaw pact inaccuracies abound. The Government constantly talk up the preparedness of the Warsaw pact compared to NATO. I should say in passing that that is a dangerous line of argument for a Government who have been in a position to so domething about that for nine and a half years.

According to the White Paper, it is not just in military doctrine that the Warsaw pact displays a great conformity. It is displayed in economic structures, personnel reliability and inter-pact co-operation. The casual White Paper reader must be under the impression that the Warsaw pact is some great monolithic cohesive mass. There is not even a hint, despite the speech of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), that events in Poland, Hungary, Romania or Czechoslovakia are suggestive of some diversity, to say nothing of events within the Soviet Union itself from as far apart as Latvia on the Baltic to Azerbaydzhan in the south.

I have no inclination to argue that the Warsaw pact represents a loose association of democratic states, free to come and go as they please. However, for the Government to argue that the pact is a great monolith is nonsense. All the military experts I have read now argue that any comparison between the armed strength of the Warsaw pact and NATO, if it is to be meaningful, must take account of the potential for unreliability within the pact.

A similar word of caution must be given to the casual White Paper reader when the Government indulge in their annual bean count of who has what and where. The White Paper make a slight genuflection to the problems inherent in comparison by stating that
"the complexities of comparing capabilities of specific equipments are well illustrated in the case of tanks."
However, 12 paragraphs later it dismisses that acknowledgement by saying:
"older Warsaw Pact tanks, for example, are more easily written off on paper than on the North German plain … it is a false and dangerous delusion to discount the reality of numbers."
That is the problem with the way in which the White Paper argues. We are back to a black and white interpretation of everything. No one is suggesting——

Twenty years ago the imbalance in the number of tanks was frequently thought by experts to be balanced by the supposed technological superiority of Western tanks. Today the modern Soviet tanks—they are building many new ones at a much faster rate than the West—are, in some respects, superior to ours.

I shall come to the qualitative comparison in a moment.

No one is suggesting that we discount the reality of numbers. We are simply saying, as my hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) said yesterday, that if we are to have a meaningful defence debate we should try to discover what the reality is. As the White Paper makes specific reference to the complexities of the tank comparison, I shall take that as an example. According to the Pentagon's 1988 assessment of the Soviet threat, there are 53,000 Soviet main battle tanks in the area from the Atlantic to the Urals. The same figure is given in the International Institute for Strategic Studies report that was published yesterday. According to the report of Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate arms services sub-committee on conventional forces and alliance defence, there are 52,200. According to the White Paper, there are 51,000, which is proof that it is easier to wipe off between 1,200 and 2,000 tanks on paper than it is to wipe them off of a north German plain.

Perhaps the Minister will explain that discrepancy, because normally the White Paper talks of the Warsaw pact's capability. Why is there an underestimate, unless it is to enable the Government to back their claim that over half the Warsaw pact's tanks are modern?

The White Paper claims that in the Atlantic to the Ural region and on the central front more than half the Soviet tanks are modern, but the Pentagon claims that the figure is about 40 per cent.

To prove that the Warsaw pact not only has a quantitative lead but is catching up with NATO's qualitative lead, the Government not only flagrantly wipe out between 1,200 and 2,000 tanks but change their definition of "modern". By their definition, the Chieftain tank, which was introduced in the mid-1960s—to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) referred and which the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) yesterday referred to as an aging weapon—is not sufficiently modern for Britain and needs to be replaced by the Challenger tank. In the same breath, they argue that all Warsaw pact tanks introduced in the mid-1960s must be classed as modern and so, QED, they prove that over half the Warsaw pact's tanks are modern.

Everything that I have read suggests that the greatest danger from the Warsaw pact is a surprise attack, although it is difficult for the layman to imagine a surprise attack of over 50,000 tanks. As the decision to go nuclear would be taken early in the hostilities, speed is of the essence. When we talk of large numbers of tanks, we must cope with what Mearsheimer has identified as the "crossing-the-T" phenomenon. Simply put, there is not enough room for the attacker to place all of its 24 divisions at the point of the attack. As the size of the attacking force increases, the logistical as well as the command and control problems increase proportionately:
"Although the notion is perhaps counter-intuitive, bigger divisions are not necessarily better divisions when an attacking force is attempting to effect a blitzkrieg. A Pact defensive would have to traverse the obstacle-ridden terrain which covers almost all of Germany and restricts the movements of large armoured units."
In other words, there is a danger of a monumental traffic jam in the middle of central Europe. Instead, the White Paper conjures up the nightmare of swift, massive progress.

In a section of the White Paper entitled "Quality of Men", paragraph 16 makes a dismissive comment that
"Soviet military doctrine … does not require the soldier in the field to show initiative … ".
The observation on Warsaw pact training does not exactly fit the Governments nightmare of a huge, monolithic, well-trained and up-to-date machine.

The White Paper declares that the Warsaw pacts plans are as well-rehearsed as NATO's. The Warsaw pact declares 22 exercises involving 13,000 or more soldiers, while the White Paper lists 23 major NATO exercises in 1987. No reference is made to the fact that, as Jonathan Dean, the former American ambassador to the mutual and balanced force reductions talks reminded us last year, NATO's annual exercises of 250,000 men and more are over twice the size of the largest Warsaw pact exercises.

The White Paper refers to the geographical advantages enjoyed by the Warsaw pact, with consequent benefits for its reinforcement capability. In terms of the Warsaw pacts ability to achieve a quick victory—we cannot overemphasise the importance attached to speed when considering the doctrine of flexible response—geography works to NATO's advantage. That is why, as General Bernard Rogers, who until last year was supreme allied commander of NATO forces in Europe, said:
"It is important to remember when assessing the role of non-strategic weapons that numbers per se are not critically decisive. It would be as foolish for us to try to match each Soviet nuclear system with one of ours as it would be foolish for us to try to match them man for man and tank for tank at the conventional level … As a defensive alliance we do not need to match the Warsaw Pact one for one in any category of forces".
Why then has the defence debate been conducted throughout the country at that level? It is because that suits the Government. The Government do not want a defence debate. They simply want an exchange of slogans. Some Conservative Members' speeches towards the end of the debate were a perfect example of that. We should all remember that, when we relegate the defence debate to an exchange of slogans, we play into the Government's hands.

The Conservative party acts as though it has a monopoly on patriotism. The tone is set by the Prime Minister. Returning from a NATO summit in March this year, she said that the Labour party had
"no memory, no stomach, no spine and no guts".
The Conservative party had already plunged into new depths in the general election last year with its now infamous poster, depicting a young soldier with his hands raised in surrender, and entitled, "Labour's defence policy." Conservative Members may think that is smart, but that poster and their attitude, which was repeated tonight, are deeply offensive to millions of Labour party members and supporters whose patriotism is unchallengeable.

Some of us are prepared to concede that we do not have a monopoly on patriotism, but we are interested in knowing the defence policy of the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues.

The great divide in defence polices in Britain cannot be so shamefully characterised as being between the patriotic and the treacherous, nor can it be so ridiculously dismissed, as the Prime Minister seems to think, as between those with stomach, spine and guts and those without those attributes. The great divide is between those who want to find a way of removing the nuclear option from the strategy of the two blocs and those who believe that the possession of nuclear weapons, however tenuously independent, somehow confers on the owner the title of super-power.

The White Paper pompously declares on its opening page:
"More open internal policies, which bring the Soviet people more information about their own country and the world outside, are self-evidently desirable"
—and that from the Government of GCHQ, "Spycatcher" and Zircon.

The misinformation should stop. The ludicrous warping of history should stop. The implication, the very meaning of the doctrine of flexible response should be spelt out so that the people of this country know what it is. General Rogers has written:
"the people of the sixteen sovereign nations that constitute the Atlantic Alliance have a decisive role to play concerning our strategy. No NATO strategy wil be credible or effective unless there is a broad-based consensus within the Alliance that it is appropriate, unless there is substantial support for it, and unless there is a firm commitment to provide whatever measures are necessary to sustain it."
I do not disagree with that. But we cannot have a broad-based consensus, substantial support or firm commitments for and about strategies which are deliberately obscured. That is why the claim at Brighton last week by the Secretary of State, that we must all admit that the Governments defence policy was the will of the British people, is so ludicrously absurd.

We could make a start tonight. We could see how much time the Minister allocates to the doctrine of flexible response. We could see how much time he devotes to commenting on the recent words of Robert McNamara, the former American Secretary of State and the man who, more than any other human being alive, was responsible for formulating the doctrine of flexible response. We could see how much time he devotes to agreeing with or rebutting McNamara's comments that most Americans, and to that we can add Britons,
"are simply unaware that NATO strategy calls for early initiation of the use of nuclear weapons in a conflict with the Soviets. Eighty per cent. of them believe we would not use such weapons unless the Soviets used them first. They would be shocked to learn that they are mistaken. And they would be horrified to be told that senior military commanders themselves believe that to carry out our present strategy would lead to the destruction of society. But those are the facts."
Whenever we press the Government about this, they reply that it is not the use of nuclear weapons that is of value but their deterrent effect. The doctrine of flexible response is mentioned on three occasions in the White Paper. Most of us had believed that the nuclear weapon was always a weapon of deterrence, and was used as a threat to prevent the enemy from using their nuclear weapon first. That is not the role of nuclear weapons in flexible response. There is a clear commitment that, faced with a conventional attack from the Warsaw pact. NATO would go nuclear at some stage.

I am under no illusion that the 1 million Warsaw pact soldiers assembled in the central region are there for their health, or that the 50,000 or so tanks are there for lack of garage space, but common sense tells me that the Warsaw pact must have the odd suspicion about us. It should be the role of the British Government to reduce tension, and they should not lag behind in every initiative for peace. We hear a great deal from the Government about the need to modernise our weapons. We hear nothing about the need to modernise our strategy.

The White Paper proclaims 1987 as a successful year for the Conservative defence policy and points to the INF treaty as proof. I have always held that it is one of the more endearing characteristics of Conservative Members that, while they resolutely refuse to accept responsibility for any of their own actions, they consistently claim credit for the achievements of others. It ought to be remembered that, since the death of Stalin, the influence of the Soviet military in the formulation of Soviet defence policy has grown. That is why the dismissal of Defence Minister Sokolov and Marshals Koldunov and Konstantinov, after the Matthias Rust affair, facilitated an improvement in East-West relations. It is a particularly fitting verdict on the Government that the aerobatics of a West German adolescent have done more for international peace and rapprochement than nine and a half years of Conservative Government. It is no wonder that there is an obligatory Churchill quotation in every defence White Paper, because the Government are set in a cold war time warp. The exciting things that are happening in the world are passing us by.

I believe that changes taking place in the Soviet Union would have taken place, and will take place, with or without hiccups, whether Gorbachev is there or not, because we are seeing there a collapse of a societal model. Nevertheless, we should not underestimate Gorbachev's personal contribution. The Prime Minister has to come to the terms with the fact that he is there, and with the fact that Brezhnev is no longer with us, even if there is speculation about the length of his absence. She has to come to terms with the fact that Stalin is no longer there.

Everything that the Government do is geared to the nuclear pretence. To that end, they unilaterally reduced spending on conventional armaments, bilaterally agreed to rent missiles from the United States and multilaterally agreed at Montebello to modernise the nuclear stock. Unilateral, bilateral and multilateral, all at the same time. What a shambles. To hide the shambles of their policy, Conservative Members try to turn these debates into discussion of a Labour Governments defence estimates —as if the Tory party had not been in power for nine and a half years.

We are in the second year of this Parliament. If recent experience is anything to go by, we are probably three years away from the next general election. It is the duty of the Opposition, in scrutinising the Governments plans, to set out their own objectives. Our objectives are clear. We believe in a well-defended Britain. We remain committed members of NATO and we want to move this country and ultimately both power blocs away from nuclear dependence.

Conservative Members have pressed my hon. Friends to say what proportion of GNP we would spend on defence. It would be irresponsible, and anyway impossible, to say precisely how much it will cost to do this and precisely how much it will cost to do that. We do not have the advice which is available in government from professional advisers. We do not know what the world situation or the domestic situation will be when we come to office, and before acting we will want to consult our allies, but our objective is clear.

I do not know why Conservative Members are getting so excited, because I chose my words very carefully. Lest the same thing befalls me as befell Senator Biden, let me refer to the document from which I took those words. On page 67, under the title "Defence", it is stated:
"It would be irresponsible, and anyway impossible, to say by precisely how much we shall do this, and precisely how much it will cost. We do not have the advice which is available in government from professional advisers; we do not know what the world situation—or the domestic economic situation —will be when we come to office; and before acting, we should want to consult our allies. But our objective is clear."
That comes from "The Right Approach", a statement of Conservative aims published two and a half years before the 1979 general election. As usual, it is one rule for them and another for the rest of us. I have great pleasure in commending to the House the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.

9.36 pm

The hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook), who made a maiden appearance as defence Whip at the Dispatch Box last night, referred to the armed forces parliamentary scheme which is, as he explained to the House, a trial programme to give Members of Parliament a chance to be assigned to an armed forces unit for three weeks a year. It provides experience of the forces, particularly for those, like myself, too young to have done national service. I am glad that he found it a success, and I hope that the scheme continues. The late Member for Epping Forest, Sir John Biggs-Davison, would have approved of the scheme. We miss him tonight. We miss his expert and cogent contribution to this annual debate.

Many questions have been asked during the debate, and I shall try to cover as many of them as I can. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) asked me 14 questions in a very brief speech. He would not expect me to answer all of them, but I shall ensure that Ministers, including myself, respond to all the points that he has raised. I shall ensure that either I or one of my colleagues responds to the question that my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) put to me.

The hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. Hughes) —if I could have his attention for a moment—argued that the Ministry of Defence and NATO have in some way overestimated Soviet conventional capacity in Europe, particularly tank capacity. If he is right, then obviously the Soviets pose less of a threat, but how does that square with the official Opposition's argument throughout the two days of debate that they want increased spending on conventional weapons? Why did he not mention the increased Soviet capabilities in their submarine fleet and long-range aircraft, presumably on account of a perceived threat on the central front? He took in isolation one category of weapons system and did not paint a fair picture.

The hon. Member for Stockton, North and my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries also spoke about the well-being of the young men and women of our armed forces and, particularly, about their pay, allowances, accommodation and opportunities for house purchase. I can assure both hon. Members and the House that we treat those matters most seriously.

On coming into office in 1979, the Government put service pay on a level that was based on the earnings of those in comparable civilian employment. In every year since then, although there was staging in two years, the Government have honoured the recommendations of the independent Armed Forces Pay Review Body. We believe that service men and women generally regard their pay as both fair and reasonable.

The House will know that earlier in the year my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced the outcome of a comprehensive review of armed forces' allowances. It was the first review of that sort to be carried out for many years. It was designed to ensure that service allowances would be up to date, cost-effective and appropriate to the requirements of modern service life. As a result, some significant improvements have been made. For example, we recognise that nowadays many service personnel choose to buy and live in their own homes. We have therefore substantially increased the financial assistance that is available to them when they are required to move home following a posting to a new location. We have removed many differences which existed between the treatment of single and married personnel. It will take some time for the full effects of these changes to become apparent. We believe that the majority of service personnel recognise that the broad thrust of what we are doing is right.

The hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) referred yesterday to the demographic trough and the effect that this would have on recruitment and on service manning. The three services have recognised the implications of the trough for many years. We take it seriously, and are taking active steps to ensure that we can compete with private sector employers in what, as far as the armed forces are concerned, is a voluntary service. About 5 per cent. of our armed forces' personnel are women, and the figure is much higher in the United States and in Canada. We have no intention of changing our rules on no combat duty for women. We do not intend to change the rules about discharging women when they become pregnant. There is room, however, for the employment of more women in the armed forces. That will go some way to dealing with the demographic trough.

It is much to be welcomed that women are to fly as rear crew members in AWACS. Other armed forces allow women to fly communications aeroplanes. As the Royal Air Force has a pilot shortage, could it not do the same?

I cannot give my hon. Friend any assurance that women will occupy cockpits. I cannot give him any comfort on that score. However, we shall keep the matter under review. He is right to say that women will fly in AWACS.

The hon. Members for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) and for Attercliffe referred to defence expenditure. I repeat for the benefit of the House the three salient features that are expressed clearly in the "Statement on the Defence Estimates". First, since 1979 to the current year there has been a 20 per cent. increase in real terms in the defence budget. Secondly, we spend 4·7 per cent. of our gross domestic product on defence. That is a higher proportion than that of any of our major European allies. Thirdly, when it comes to the future—I share the frustration of the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) that this debate comes first—the House must await the Autumn Statement.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) asked for a defence review. Gone are the days when, especially under the last Labour Government, there were periodic reviews. The process of budgeting and reviewing commitments is a much more sophisticated system nowadays. It is a continuous process. We shall not take any special steps to have a major defence review. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has to face difficult decisions all the time, and we shall take them regularly. As regards BAOR, there are no steps afoot to change the role of 1st British Corps or our commitment to NATO.

The right hon. Member for Dudley, East mentioned the problems of developing a command system for the type 23 frigate. They have been faced up to with the cancellation last year of the contract for the original command system and the subsequent placings of competitive project definition contracts for a solution based on the latest technology. It is true that the first type 23s will enter service without a fully operational command system, but their weapons and sensors will be capable of independent action, enabling the ships to fulfil their operational tasks.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for conceding that the command and control system will not be available to more than the first of fleet, because the impression we received last year was that only the first of fleet would not have the command and control system. As he has now admitted that this is so, what limitations will there be on the operational capabilities of the frigates when they come into service?

We expect no significant operational limitations. The number of ships affected will depend on the success of the contracts that we have placed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) raised the subject of the Gurkhas. I repeat the commitment which Ministers have given before about the future of the Gurkhas after we leave Hong Kong. I know that the Select Committee plans a visit to Nepal towards the end of the year, and I hope to follow it there. The Government will announce their conclusions next year about how that commitment to the Gurkhas will be fulfilled.

My hon. Friend also asked about the AWACS offset deal. Boeing's first report listed contracts totalling $141 million, and, following our evaluation, we have allowed a total offset credit of $96·5 million. The second report listed contracts totalling about $192 million, bringing the cumulative total of contracts placed to $333 million. We are now evaluating the second report—[Interruption.] There is a long way to go, but a long time is still available.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries and many other right hon. and hon. Members spoke about low flying and aircraft safety. The need for training in low flying has been recognised by all for some time and accepted by successive Governments. There is understandable public concern about the risks in low-flying training. It came to the fore as a result of the tragic accident on 9 August in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean), when two Tornado aircraft engaged in training at night were involved in a mid-air collision and four aircrew were killed. A board of inquiry is still sitting. As a result of that accident, a detailed re-examination of the procedures for low-flying training at night has taken place.

It is important to bear in mind that, of major aircraft accidents in the past five years, only about one in four has occurred when the aircraft was engaged in low-flying training. In those cases, the primary cause of the accident was not always attributable to the low-flying training itself. Nevertheless, changes have been made following the re-examination.

With effect from 10 October, steps have been taken to allocate separate days by command: strike command, Royal Air Force Germany, and the United States Air Force; and aircraft will move, well separated, broadly in a clockwise direction around the United Kingdom low-flying system.

In future we intend to introduce a computerised notification and warning system in the United Kingdom low-flying system, based on a central computer with a larger network of terminals extending to every low flying squadron. Such a system will accept notification of sortie details and in return provide information on other aviation activities, warnings and restrictions in low flying areas— information which is now fed manually into the system. I hope that the House accepts that the steps that we have taken as a result of the tragic accident have been in the right direction——

As my hon. Friend knows, I fully support the necessity for low-flying operations, which are carried out extensively throughout Scotland and in my constituency. Will he bear in mind the good public relations that we obtain from the use of the helicopter flight at Leuchars, which substantially offsets the aggravation caused by low, noisy and fast jets? We can explain it by saying that they both come from the same air force, and therefore that the benefit of the helicopters substantially offsets the disadvantages of the jets.

I can give my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) and also the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Speller) that assurance.

No, I am answering my hon. Friend.

I can give an assurance that when we reach a decision —and we have not done so yet—about search and rescue deployment for those areas of the United Kingdom about which we have not made an announcement we will take into account the benefit that, in the minds of the public, search and rescue is perhaps the acceptable face of low flying.

I am sorry, but I have only 10 minutes left. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but I must make progress.

I shall deal briefly with the points raised by other hon. Members concerning the reserve forces.

My hon. Friend has made a most important statement regarding low flying, which causes immense difficulties in many parts—especially the north of England. Will he give an undertaking that the welcome and important announcement that he has made tonight means that never again in future ought pilots of low-flying aircraft find that there are other low-flying aircraft in the same area without their knowledge?

No, I cannot give my right hon. Friend that assurance. The assurance I can give him is that, in a particular area, both aircraft will be well separated and flying in the same direction. I hope that that answers his concern.

No, I must finish answering the remaining points.

I must answer my hon. Friends the Members for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) and for Kingswood (Mr. Hayward), who raised the question of the reserve forces. The equipment used by the Territorial Army and the Regular Army is the same as they have the same role. We have taken positive steps to increase the bounty, particularly for those who have served for more than three years.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood specifically asked me about over-commitment of the Territorial Army. We shall ensure that all TA units are made well aware that the minimum requirement is clearly explained. It is wrong that TA soldiers who are giving their own time should become over-committed and be expected to do too much. That way lies bad recruitment.

This has been a one-sided debate, because most of the debate has been on the Opposition Benches. [Interruption.] Then Opposition Members have not been listening. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) rightly said that there is room on the Labour Benches for only two positions that, to use his words, are credible, and that the electorate would understand. He said that the first was to keep Trident. That is not only the policy of this Government but has, by extension to Polaris, been the policy of all Governments, both Labour and Conservative, since the war. I may say to the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), who asked a specific question about targeting and Trident, that Trident does not depend—I repeat, does not depend—on a United States satellite system for its operation and targeting. It is independent of that system. The right hon. Gentleman does not believe me, but I give the House that assurance.

The second of the credible options to which the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West referred was to scrap our independent deterrent, and by definition to scrap also United States bases. That is what he talked about as being the credible alternative. That is in the amendment of the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). That is the neutralist position that the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West believes is the second alternative. The neutralist position is unacceptable to the British electorate, and any political party that adopted that platform would become permanently unelectable.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I bring to your attention the fact that the Minister is not replying to the debate? He has refused to give way to me, and has refused to answer questions about the Royal Ordnance factory in Bishopton.

Order. There are five minutes to go, and we have no idea what the Minister is going to say. As far as I am concerned, what he has been saying is in order, and that is my responsibility.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West also said that there was no room for shilly-shallying as far as the Opposition Front Bench was concerned. He was referring directly to his right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench. I think that shilly-shallying, by his definition, is what we get from the Opposition Front Bench. As far as my hon. Friends and I can understand, their policy is to believe in complete nuclear disarmament in return for an insignificant Soviet nuclear disarmament. That is what "something for something" means. It means all our strategic nuclear capability in return for some of the Soviets' capability.

According to the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who spoke at the Labour party conference, that equation is four of our submarines—Polaris or Trident—in return for eight Soviet submarines. That is an inadequate policy to place before the House and the electorate. Furthermore, their policy would be to shelter under the United States nuclear umbrella, which is a dishonest policy.

No. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said yesterday that he did not know into which Lobby he would pass tonight when we vote on the Opposition's amendment. He said that he would be thinking very carefully about which way he, and presumably some of his colleagues, would be voting in the first Division. Presumably, by definition, the right hon. Member for Chesterfield will also be thinking very seriously. I ask both of them, and their colleagues, to consider three aspects of the Opposition Front Bench policy that we have been discussing in the past two days, and to decide whether they can support that policy. First, the Opposition Front Bench——

First, the Opposition Front Bench specifically made no commitment to scrap Trident on coming into office, which they will not in 1992. Instead, they have suggested an inadequate barter compromise: all our nuclear capability in return for some of the Soviets' nuclear capability. Secondly, there is no mention in the Opposition's official policy of removing American bases. Thirdly, there is no promise to switch any defence savings to social programmes in the United Kingdom. If the hon. Gentleman votes with them tonight——

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Five right hon. and hon. Members have brought up the issue of Royal Ordnance factories, and the Minister has not the guts to answer.

The hon. Gentleman's point of order was born of his frustration about the differences of opinion on the Opposition Benches between Opposition policy and the policy suggested and espoused by the hon. Member for Walton.

The policies advocated by the Opposition Front Bench spokesmen do not represent united Labour party policy. If they are offered to the electorate at the next general election, the Opposition will surely lose. Unless there is a radical change, the Labour party will remain permanently unelectable.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 197, Noes 321.

Division No. 448]

[10 pm


Abbott, Ms DianeGrant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Allen, GrahamGrocott, Bruce
Archer, Rt Hon PeterHarman, Ms Harriet
Armstrong, HilaryHattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Ashley, Rt Hon JackHeffer, Eric S.
Ashton, JoeHenderson, Doug
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Hinchliffe, David
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Barron, KevinHolland, Stuart
Battle, JohnHome Robertson, John
Beckett, MargaretHood, Jimmy
Bell, StuartHowell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Benn, Rt Hon TonyHoyle, Doug
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Bermingham, GeraldHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Bidwell, SydneyHughes, Roy (Newport E)
Blair, TonyHughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Boyes, RolandIllsley, Eric
Bray, Dr JeremyIngram, Adam
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Janner, Greville
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)John, Brynmor
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Buchan, NormanJones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Buckley, George J.Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Caborn, RichardKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Lambie, David
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Lamond, James
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Leadbitter, Ted
Clay, BobLeighton, Ron
Clelland, DavidLestor, Joan (Eccles)
Clwyd, Mrs AnnLewis, Terry
Cohen, HarryLitherland, Robert
Coleman, DonaldLivingstone, Ken
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Corbett, RobinLoyden, Eddie
Cousins, JimMcAllion, John
Crowther, StanMcAvoy, Thomas
Cryer, BobMcCartney, Ian
Cunliffe, LawrenceMacdonald, Calum A.
Darling, AlistairMcFall, John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)McKelvey, William
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)McLeish, Henry
Dewar, DonaldMcNamara, Kevin
Dixon, DonMcTaggart, Bob
Dobson, FrankMcWilliam, John
Doran, FrankMadden, Max
Douglas, DickMahon, Mrs Alice
Durfy, A. E. P.Marek, Dr John
Dunnachie, JimmyMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs GwynethMartlew, Eric
Eadie, AlexanderMaxton, John
Eastham, KenMeacher, Michael
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Meale, Alan
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Fatchett, DerekMoonie, Dr Lewis
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Morgan, Rhodri
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Fisher, MarkMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Flannery, MartinMullin, Chris
Flynn, PaulMurphy, Paul
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelNellist, Dave
Foster, DerekOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Foulkes, GeorgeO'Brien, William
Fyfe, MariaO'Neill, Martin
Galbraith, SamOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Galloway, GeorgeParry, Robert
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)Patchett, Terry
George, BrucePike, Peter L.
Godman, Dr Norman A.Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Golding, Mrs LlinPrescott, John
Gordon, MildredPrimarolo, Dawn
Gould, BryanQuin, Ms Joyce
Graham, ThomasRadice, Giles

Rees, Rt Hon MerlynSteinberg, Gerry
Reid, Dr JohnStott, Roger
Richardson, JoStrang, Gavin
Roberts, Allan (Bootle)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Robertson, GeorgeThompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Robinson, GeoffreyTurner, Dennis
Rogers, AllanWall, Pat
Rooker, JeffWalley, Joan
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Rowlands, TedWareing, Robert N.
Ruddock, JoanWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Salmond, AlexWigley, Dafydd
Sedgemore, BrianWilliams, Rt Hon Alan
Sheerman, BarryWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Sheldon, Rt Hon RobertWinnick, David
Shore, Rt Hon PeterWise, Mrs Audrey
Short, ClareWorthington, Tony
Skinner, DennisWray, Jimmy
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)Young, David (Bolton SE)
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Snape, PeterTellers for the Ayes:
Soley, CliveMr. Frank Haynes and
Spearing, NigelMr. Alun Michael.


Aitken, JonathanClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Alexander, RichardClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelClarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Allason, RupertColvin, Michael
Amery, Rt Hon JulianConway, Derek
Amess, DavidCoombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Amos, AlanCoombs, Simon (Swindon)
Arbuthnot, JamesCope, Rt Hon John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Cormack, Patrick
Ashby, DavidCouchman, James
Aspinwall, JackCran, James
Atkins, RobertCritchley, Julian
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Currie, Mrs Edwina
Baldry, TonyCurry, David
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Davis, David (Boothferry)
Batiste, SpencerDay, Stephen
Bendall, VivianDevlin, Tim
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Dickens, Geoffrey
Bevan, David GilroyDicks, Terry
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnDorrell, Stephen
Blackburn, Dr John G.Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterDover, Den
Bonsor, Sir NicholasDurant, Tony
Boscawen, Hon RobertEggar, Tim
Boswell, TimEmery, Sir Peter
Bottomley, PeterEvans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaEvennett, David
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Fallon, Michael
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Favell, Tony
Bowis, JohnFenner, Dame Peggy
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesField, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardFinsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Brandon-Bravo, MartinFishburn, John Dudley
Brazier, JulianFookes, Miss Janet
Bright, GrahamForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterFowler, Rt Hon Norman
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Fox, Sir Marcus
Browne, John (Winchester)Franks, Cecil
Buck, Sir AntonyFreeman, Roger
Budgen, NicholasFrench, Douglas
Burns, SimonGale, Roger
Burt, AlistairGardiner, George
Butcher, JohnGill, Christopher
Butler, ChrisGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Butterfill, JohnGlyn, Dr Alan
Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Goodhart, Sir Philip
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Goodlad, Alastair
Carrington, MatthewGoodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Carttiss, MichaelGorman, Mrs Teresa
Cartwright, JohnGorst, John
Cash, WilliamGow, Ian
Chapman, SydneyGower, Sir Raymond
Churchill, MrGrant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Gregory, ConalMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')Mates, Michael
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Maude, Hon Francis
Grist, IanMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Ground, PatrickMayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Grylls, MichaelMellor, David
Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynMeyer, Sir Anthony
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)Miller, Sir Hal
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Mills, Iain
Hampson, Dr KeithMiscampbell, Norman
Hanley, JeremyMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hannam, JohnMitchell, David (Hants NW)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Moate, Roger
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Monro, Sir Hector
Harris, DavidMorris, M (N'hampton S)
Haselhurst, AlanMorrison, Sir Charles
Hayes, JerryMorrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir BarneyMoss, Malcolm
Hayward, RobertMudd, David
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidNeale, Gerrard
Heddle, JohnNeedham, Richard
Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelNelson, Anthony
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)Nicholls, Patrick
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hind, KennethOnslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Oppenheim, Phillip
Hordern, Sir PeterOwen, Rt Hon Dr David
Howard, MichaelPage, Richard
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Paice, James
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)Patnick, Irvine
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Patten, Chris (Bath)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Patten, John (Oxford W)
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Pawsey, James
Hunter, AndrewPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Irvine, MichaelPorter, Barry (Wirral S)
Irving, CharlesPortillo, Michael
Jack, MichaelPowell, William (Corby)
Jackson, RobertPrice, Sir David
Janman, TimRaffan, Keith
Jessel, TobyRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyRathbone, Tim
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Redwood, John
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelRenton, Tim
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineRhodes James, Robert
Key, RobertRiddick, Graham
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Kirkhope, TimothyRidsdale, Sir Julian
Knapman, RogerRifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Knight, Greg (Derby North)Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)Roe, Mrs Marion
Knowles, MichaelRost, Peter
Knox, DavidRowe, Andrew
Lang, IanRyder, Richard
Latham, MichaelSackville, Hon Tom
Lawrence, IvanSainsbury, Hon Tim
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Sayeed, Jonathan
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkScott, Nicholas
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Shaw, David (Dover)
Lightbown, DavidShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)Shelton, William (Streatham)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lord, MichaelShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Luce, Rt Hon RichardShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
McCrindle, RobertShersby, Michael
Macfarlane, Sir NeilSims, Roger
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnSkeet, Sir Trevor
Maclean, DavidSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
McLoughlin, PatrickSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
McNair-Wilson, Sir MichaelSpeed, Keith
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Speller, Tony
Madel, DavidSpicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Malins, HumfreySpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mans, KeithStanbrook, Ivor
Maples, JohnStanley, Rt Hon John
Marland, PaulSteen, Anthony
Marlow, TonyStern, Michael
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Stevens, Lewis

Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Stokes, Sir JohnWaller, Gary
Stradling Thomas, Sir JohnWalters, Sir Dennis
Sumberg, DavidWard, John
Summerson, HugoWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Tapsell, Sir PeterWatts, John
Taylor, Ian (Esher)Wells, Bowen
Taylor, John M (Solihull)Wheeler, John
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)Whitney, Ray
Tebbit, Rt Hon NormanWiddecombe, Ann
Temple-Morris, PeterWiggin, Jerry
Thatcher, Rt Hon MargaretWilkinson, John
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)Wilshire, David
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)Winterton, Mrs Ann
Thorne, NeilWinterton, Nicholas
Thornton, MalcolmWolfson, Mark
Thurnham, PeterWood, Timothy
Townend, John (Bridlington)Woodcock, Mike
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)Yeo, Tim
Tracey, RichardYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Tredinnick, DavidYounger, Rt Hon George
Trippier, David
Twinn, Dr IanTellers for the Noes:
Vaughan, Sir GerardMr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Viggers, PeterMr. Michael Neubert.
Waddington, Rt Hon David

Question Accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:

The House dividend: Ayes 311, Noes 34.

Division No. 449]

[10.15 pm


Alexander, RichardCarlisle, John, (Luton N)
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelCarlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Amery, Rt Hon JulianCarrington, Matthew
Amess, DavidCarttiss, Michael
Amos, AlanCash, William
Arbuthnot, JamesChapman, Sydney
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Churchill, Mr
Ashby, DavidClark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Aspinwall, JackClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Atkins, RobertClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Baldry, TonyColvin, Michael
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Conway, Derek
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Batiste, SpencerCoombs, Simon (Swindon)
Bendall, VivianCope, Rt Hon John
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Cormack, Patrick
Bevan, David GilroyCouchman, James
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnCran, James
Blackburn, Dr John G.Currie, Mrs Edwina
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterCurry, David
Bonsor, Sir NicholasDavies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Boscawen, Hon RobertDavis, David (Boothferry)
Boswell, TimDay, Stephen
Bottomley, PeterDevlin, Tim
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaDickens, Geoffrey
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Dicks, Terry
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Dorrell, Stephen
Bowis, JohnDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesDurant, Tony
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardEggar, Tim
Brandon-Bravo, MartinEmery, Sir Peter
Brazier, JulianEvans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Bright, GrahamEvennett, David
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterFallon, Michael
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Favell, Tony
Browne, John (Winchester)Fenner, Dame Peggy
Buck, Sir AntonyField, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Budgen, NicholasFinsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Burns, SimonFishburn, John Dudley
Burt, AlistairFookes, Miss Janet
Butcher, JohnForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Butler, ChrisFowler, Rt Hon Norman
Butterfill, JohnFox, Sir Marcus

Franks, CecilMcCrindle, Robert
Freeman, RogerMacfarlane, Sir Neil
French, DouglasMacGregor, Rt Hon John
Gale, RogerMaclean, David
Gardiner, GeorgeMcLoughlin, Patrick
Gill, ChristopherMcNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMcNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Glyn, Dr AlanMadel, David
Goodhart, Sir PhilipMalins, Humfrey
Goodlad, AlastairMans, Keith
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesMaples, John
Gorman, Mrs TeresaMarland, Paul
Gorst, JohnMarlow, Tony
Gow, IanMarshall, John (Hendon S)
Gower, Sir RaymondMarshall, Michael (Arundel)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Mates, Michael
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Maude, Hon Francis
Gregory, ConalMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Mellor, David
Ground, PatrickMeyer, Sir Anthony
Grylls, MichaelMiller, Sir Hal
Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynMills, Iain
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Hampson, Dr KeithMoate, Roger
Hanley, JeremyMonro, Sir Hector
Hannam, JohnMorris, M (N'hampton S)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Morrison, Sir Charles
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Harris, DavidMoss, Malcolm
Haselhurst, AlanMudd, David
Hayes, JerryNeale, Gerrard
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir BarneyNeedham, Richard
Hayward, RobertNelson, Anthony
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidNicholls, Patrick
Heddle, JohnNicholson, David (Taunton)
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Oppenheim, Phillip
Hind, KennethOwen, Rt Hon Dr David
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Page, Richard
Hordern, Sir PeterPaice, James
Howard, MichaelParkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Patnick, Irvine
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Patten, Chris (Bath)
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)Patten, John (Oxford W)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Pawsey, James
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hunter, AndrewPorter, Barry (Wirral S)
Irvine, MichaelPortillo, Michael
Irving, CharlesPowell, William (Corby)
Jack, MichaelPrice, Sir David
Jackson, RobertRaffan, Keith
Janman, TimRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Jessel, TobyRathbone, Tim
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyRedwood, John
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Renton, Tim
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelRhodes James, Robert
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineRiddick, Graham
Key, RobertRidley, Rt Hon Nicholas
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Kirkhope, TimothyRifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Knapman, RogerRoberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Knight, Greg (Derby North)Roe, Mrs Marion
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)Rost, Peter
Knowles, MichaelRowe, Andrew
Knox, DavidRyder, Richard
Lang, IanSackville, Hon Tom
Latham, MichaelSainsbury, Hon Tim
Lawrence, IvanSayeed, Jonathan
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Scott, Nicholas
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkShaw, David (Dover)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lightbown, DavidShelton, William (Streatham)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lord, MichaelShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Luce, Rt Hon RichardShersby, Michael

Sims, RogerTracey, Richard
Skeet, Sir TrevorTredinnick, David
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)Trippier, David
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Twinn, Dr Ian
Speed, KeithVaughan, Sir Gerard
Speller, TonyViggers, Peter
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)Waddington, Rt Hon David
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Stanbrook, IvorWalker, Bill (T'side North)
Stanley, Rt Hon JohnWalker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Steen, AnthonyWaller, Gary
Stern, MichaelWard, John
Stevens, LewisWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)Watts, John
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)Wells, Bowen
Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)Wheeler, John
Stokes, Sir JohnWhitney, Ray
Stradling Thomas, Sir JohnWiddecombe, Ann
Sumberg, DavidWiggin, Jerry
Summerson, HugoWilkinson, John
Tapsell, Sir PeterWilshire, David
Taylor, Ian (Esher)Winterton, Mrs Ann
Taylor, John M (Solihull)Winterton, Nicholas
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)Wolfson, Mark
Tebbit, Rt Hon NormanWood, Timothy
Temple-Morris, PeterWoodcock, Mike
Thatcher, Rt Hon MargaretYeo, Tim
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)Young, Sir George (Acton)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)Younger, Rt Hon George
Thorne, Neil
Thornton, MalcolmTellers for the Ayes:
Thurnham, PeterMr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Townend, John (Bridlington)Mr. Michael Neubert.
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)


Abbott, Ms DianeJones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Livingstone, Ken
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Madden, Max
Benn, Rt Hon TonyMahon, Mrs Alice
Bidwell, SydneyMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)Parry, Robert
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Patchett, Terry
Clay, BobPrimarolo, Dawn
Clwyd, Mrs AnnSalmond, Alex
Cohen, HarrySedgemore, Brian
Cryer, BobSkinner, Dennis
Cunliffe, LawrenceWall, Pat
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)Wigley, Dafydd
Flannery, MartinWise, Mrs Audrey
Gordon, Mildred
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)Tellers for the Noes:
Heffer, Eric S.Mr. Eddie Loyden and
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)Mr. Dave Nellist.

Question accordingly agreed to.


That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1988 contained in Cm. 344.