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weaponry at the cheapest unit cost. Yet now, NIAG's logic tells us that we must reduce competition in order to reduce unit costs. Questioned on those matters at the Dispatch Box earlier, the Minister said that he would ensure that the British taxpayer received value for money. How far will that value for money go if we are to have collaborative projects which span the Atlantic? If we engage in collaborative programmes with the American arms producers, to what extent will we be required to fund research and development? I am sure that the Minister will refer to this later if he takes up this line of challenge that I am throwing out.

Will that collaboration be of the kind that we were offered with Trident when the agreement was broken? The House will recall that we were promised that Trident would be maintained in this country, but now it will not. We were told that Trident would be our property, but now we find that we have joined a Trident library from which we can make withdrawals for refurbishments when necessary. I offer those thoughts to the Minister and I am sure that he will refer to them later.

Let me deal briefly with other changes that have taken place in NATO to which the President of the North Atlantic Assembly referred. There have been changes in outlook on the representation of the Armed Forces. Britain relies on the pay review board but other countries have other systems. Germany, the Benelux countries, Holland and Denmark, allow forms of trade unions. I use that term because I cannot think of a different word in the English language which will clearly describe what I am referring to. Those unions have come together to form Euro-Mil--the European military. They are staffed by responsible people.

The sergeant-major representing Euro-Mil at Antalya in Turkey this year was a Christain Democrat of fairly Right-wing political persuasion. He spoke persuasively of the need to establish a dialogue between serving men and women and the Ministries of Defence in their respective countries, and, indeed, across the NATO Alliance. The hon. Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) will confirm that representatives of Euro-Mil will be meeting officers of the military committee before the next plenary session in Rome in October. That shows a fair degree of responsibility and maturity. Those people are responsible, experienced and a source of pride for us. They are worthy allies. Why do not we accord our serving men and women the same kind of respect and the same opportunity to present their anxieties and needs in terms of pay and conditions instead of their having to go through the pay review board procedure or expecting us to speak on their behalf on the five meagre occasions that we get each calendar year?

Mr. Mates : Only one Opposition Member is present on each occasion.

Mr. Cook : That may be a further reason for allowing our serving men and women a more formal and structured way in which to represent their needs. I offer that to the House for serious consideration, not for frivolous comment.

Changes are not only taking place in the North Atlantic Alliance but in the Warsaw pact, as has been referred to tonight. The North Atlantic Assembly has acknowledged

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that by meeting representatives of the Hungarian and Polish Governments for discussions and they will be invited to the Rome plenary session.

I can do no better than to finish with my concluding remarks to this year's plenary session. I drew attention to the fact that in 40 years much has changed within the Alliance and the Warsaw pact. If we are serious we must assess those changes clinically. We must declare our assessment honestly and adjust our policies cautiously and collectively. Above all, we must conduct our consideration courageously and with candour. We must make the most clinical threat assessment. Does the threat still exist, if it ever did? If it does, from which direction does it come, what form does it take, can it be countered and at what cost? Only when we have done this can we perhaps discuss sensibly the issues of burden sharing.

Mikhail Gorbachev extends to us the hand of warmer friendship. If we grasp that hand we grasp the hand of the Soviet people. If we reject or inhibit his gestures we fuel those elements in the Soviet Union which seek already to obstruct or reverse the moves towards glasnost and perestroika. We must encourage change carefully and with patience. We must welcome change magnanimously and without vindictiveness. Most of all, where necessary, we must be prepared to make changes ourselves.

Several Hon. Members rose --

Mr. Speaker : Order. At the start of this debate I said that I would impose a 10-minute limit on speeches between 7 and 9 o'clock, but I think I would now be justified in relaxing that limit. If hon. Members will not speak for more than 12 minutes each, all those who wish to participate in this debate will be called.

7.10 pm

Sir Jim Spicer (Dorset, West) : I am delighted to hear your latest words, Mr. Speaker, but I promise you that I will keep to within my 10 minutes.

First, I pay a very warm tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip- Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), who put very cogently indeed and in words that I am sure we would all endorse the reasons why the Brigade of Gurkhas should remain at the higher figure. In saying that, he stressed--and it needs to be stressed--that he was talking in terms of possible aid to the civil power in Hong Kong and he was not, as the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill), and also the spokesman for the Social and Liberal Democrats, the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), tried to highlight, suggesting that there might be some relationship between events in China and the retention of the Gurkhas at full strength. I know that that was not the intention, but he spelt it out in total detail. We are on dangerous ground if we start talking about the Brigade of Gurkhas being retained at 8,000 against a possible confrontation with the People's Republic of China. Demography is a word that is very much in vogue and as we move towards the 1990s it will behove every person in this country to pay much more attention to it. Recruitment to the Civil Service and the Health Service,

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but, above all, as has been made quite clear by every speaker so far, the armed forces will become very difficult indeed.

In every board room, and I hope in the Ministry of Defence as well, two items must be at the top of the agenda at all times. The first is : how can we attract new recruits and hold them? In that context I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Dame J. Fookes) for her speech tonight, because she highlighted one way in which we can stem the haemorrage of soldiers from our armed services. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) because it is at his instigation that we have a proposed new clause in the Financee Bill on an armed forces home purchase savings scheme. That could do a tremendous amount, and no one in the Ministry of Defence should walk away from the battle that must take place with the Treasury if we are to get a scheme such as that passed by the whole House. I would add that it has the support already of 119 Members.

That is the first question : how do we find recruits and hold them? The second is : what more can we do to make the most efficient use of our human resources when they are bound to be at a premium? It will come as no surprise to my hon. Friend the Minister that I propose to move on and talk about the role of the helicopter on the battlefield. No one can doubt the totally defensive nature of our forces in Germany, but it must be right to question whether the present balance of equipment of those forces is the most cost-effective in terms both of the use of available manpower and of defence capability. In my view, the time is long past for making a decision. We have to go down the road of making available to our armed forces, particularly the Army, a much larger number of helicopters.

In that context, I was delighted to hear the intervention this afternoon which made it clear that the time is equally long past for us to see the end of divided control of battlefield helicopters. They should all be in the hands of the Army, not shared with the RAF. Why do all our Western allies place so much more faith in the role of helicopters within their armed forces than we do? The figures speak for themselves. The French have about 600 battlefield helicopters, the Germans have about 800 and the United States have 8, 600. I fully accept that the latter is a false figure because of the size of our armed forces when compared with those of the United States, but even if they are brought down to the same level the United States figure is 1,700 helicopters against a total figure for the United Kingdom of 380. That is quite shameful.

All the other armed forces within the Alliance have accepted the helicopter as a battle-winning factor because it is the one piece of equipment which provides real mobility, particularly on a battlefield which has become increasingly hostile and confused.

Also, anyone who has served in the armed forces must know that the helicopter is a force multiplier. The smaller the force deployed, the greater the importance of the helicopter because it can move the resources and fire power about the battlefield to meet the threat. Having a small but highly efficient and mobile Army, we need a strong helicopter force, and far more than many of the other armies in the NATO Alliance.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden) : I have been following my hon. Friend's argument most carefully and I

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warmly support it. Does he agree that it is not only in respect of the central front of the threat that we have traditionally supposed has come from the Soviet Union--and there is still a long way to go yet--but that one of the advantages of the helicopter for a country with forces of the size that we have is that it enables us to have greater mobility and adaptability for any out-of-area

responsibilities that we might be called upon to fulfil?

Sir Jim Spicer : I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has great experience in these matters, and I very much agree with him. I am going on to develop my argument and to say exactly how the other NATO allies deal with this problem and how they have built up forces which can be used on the main front but also in connection with the out-of-area concept.

It is this concept and need which have led the United States, France, Germany and the Warsaw pact countries to equip whole divisions and brigades with helicopters as their prime movers. In general terms, the French have an air mobile division, the Germans have three Luftlande brigades, and the United States has fully equipped combat aviation brigades. In stark contrast to this picture, we have just one air mobile brigade which we all know is in the process of being formed but is woefully short of helicopters and will remain so into the foreseeable future.

I am critical of this because there is not much point in having a air mobile brigade if it does not have the true air mobility to allow it to operate effectively.

In this overall scene, inevitably within the armed services battles and frictions develop and inevitably there is a battle about the tank versus the helicopter. It is a totally unnecessary battle because it should have been fought and done with already.

Some people within the Ministry of Defence and the Army should change their thinking. They should think of the helicopter no longer as a helicopter but as a low-flying tank. If they think of it as a low-flying tank, we shall ultimately reach the stage when the gallant soldiers in our armoured regiments will willingly move on a step and use the helicopter in the way that the tank was used in the past, with all the same logistical back-up but helicopter-borne as well. Although one or two right hon. and hon. Members dissent, the tank soldier is adaptable and could move to such a role.

Mr. Mates : Certainly tanks are as adaptable as the cavalry has always been, but to equate a helicopter with a low-flying tank is perhaps as odd as equating a tank with a grounded helicopter. They are totally different vehicles needing totally different tactical deployment, and they do totally different jobs.

Sir Jim Spicer : My hon. Friend and I are both aware of that. I have usually operated from an aircraft wearing a parachute, but I understand the difference between a tank and a helicopter. It is possible for the helicopter to replace a tank on the ground in an anti-tank role and with increase in mobility on the battlefield. Do my hon. Friend the Minister and his military advisers accept the general view that we are lagging behind all our NATO allies and the Warsaw pact in the use of helicopters? Will he give an undertaking to re-examine, now or in the near future the role of the helicopter in our defence forces and, following such a review, bring our helicopter strength more closely into line with that of our NATO allies and the Warsaw pact forces?

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Mr. John Cartwright (Woolwich) : Like other right hon. and hon. Members who have participated in the debate, I shall concentrate my remarks on the problems of demography and on the issue of the Brigade of Gurkhas. Before doing so, I wish to mention an issue that has caused considerable sadness to many of my constituents in Woolwich. I refer to the decision to transfer the headquarters of the directorate-general of defence quality assurance to Teesside. My first point is that it has taken an incredible amount of time to reach that decision. In the early 1980s, a great deal of money and effort was invested in planning the reorganisation of the Woolwich arsenal site, including more than £300,000 on the design of a new headquarters building for the directorate-general. Early in 1984, rationalisation was proposed and detailed studies undertaken. On 19 November 1986, the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton) was kind enough to write to tell me that the Secretary of State did not want to make a decision until sites outside south-east England had been considered, and that yet another detailed study was to be undertaken. The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell commented, perhaps optimistically, that that study would defer a decision about the arsenal for another six months, but the decision was not announced until March 1989--almost two and a half years later. The only argument made for transferring the directorate-general to Teesside was that that offered the best prospect of overcoming shortages of specialist staff, but at the end of February 1989 staffing levels did not show any dramatic shortage. There were 1,135 in post against a ceiling of 1,250. While it is true that there was a shortage of 52 staff in professional and technical grades, that situation is no worse than in many other Ministry of Defence establishments.

The Government have not produced any evidence to show that professional and technical staff will be easier to find in Teesside than in south-east London. They only point to higher levels of unemployment in Teesside, in the hope that vacancies will be filled. The financial savings from the transfer will be minimal. On the basis of MOD assessments, the Teesside option will bring an overall saving of £10 million over 25 years by comparison with the concentration on the Woolwich arsenal west site. However, that calculation ignores the substantial sums spent at Woolwich arsenal over the past 10 years--£22 million on maintenance, repairs and improvements, and all of which will now go down the drain. Several million pounds were spent since 1985-86 on housing

directorate-general units moved to Woolwich from other locations. That is another example of the way in which the Ministry wastes money, when forward thinking would have prevented it being spent in such a profligate way.

I cannot help but think that the Ministry of Defence's major concern is the value of the 94 acres of riverside land in Woolwich that will be released by the move. I am sure that that factor in the equation weighs more heavily than any other. The move will deal a considerable blow to an area that has now lost virtually all its industrial jobs and has a long history of service to the country's armed forces. The arsenal, which will close permanently in 1993, dates back to 1671, and was predated by Henry VIII's dockyard,

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which was established in Woolwich in 1515. When the arsenal is moved in 1993, that link will be broken--but I hope that thought will be given to ensuring that the historic buildings remaining will feature in a lasting tribute to the contribution that the people of Woolwich made to the armed services over hundreds of years. I turn to the demographic trough, and I am surprised that the Government have been caught unawares by it. It cannot be regarded as a sudden or unexpected problem. The downward trend in the birth rate has been in evidence since the early 1970s. The low point of the trough has been known since 1978. It was known that it would create problems for the armed forces, and that matter was referred to in the Defence Estimates statement in 1980 and in 1981. However, that was followed by total silence, until this year.

I can at least claim that I referred to that issue in a number of previous Army debates, in 1983, 1984, and 1987. But on none of those occasions did the Minister replying consider that the demographic trough was a serious enough matter even to be mentioned in his winding-up speech. I did rather better in 1988 when in a debate on the Army I again referred to the demographic trough and scored a bullseye. On that occasion, the Under- Secretary of State for the Armed Forces acknowledged the problem and that I was right to draw attention to it, but added that

"we are convinced that our policy of fair pay, and of fair conditions and allowances should ensure that we keep ahead of the game and cope with the demographic trend and the small number of youngsters available to join the armed forces."--[ Official Report, 26 January 1988 ; Vol. 126, c. 254.]

Given that shattering degree of complacency even as recently as January 1988, it is hardly surprising that measures to improve both recruitment and retention were not set in train much earlier. It is still strange that we have not seen the results of the MARILYN study until now, 10 years after the problem first became evident and nine years after the first reference to it in a defence White Paper. I appreciate the complexity of the problems and understand that they need studying carefully, but no one can accuse the Ministry of Defence of intemperate haste.

Other right hon. and hon. Members have mentioned the problems arising from the demographic trough and I shall not cover the same ground, but I emphasise that the 16 to 19-year-old group is declining, and that the reducing numbers available to the Army will reduce further if the Government are successful in encouraging more 16 to 19-year-olds to enter further and higher education.

For the forces, the problem is here now. The MOD set out to recruit 22,000 service men in 1988-89 and anticipated a shortfall of 2,000. The outcome was a good deal worse. The strength of the Army was expected to decline to 1.5 per cent., or by 2,000 people below establishment by 1 April 1989, but the number appears to be nearer 3, 000. The Chairman of the Defence Committee reminded the House that the situation is much worse in the infantry, where the shortfall is around 5 per cent. and worsening.

The Government's proposal to improve retention is entirely sensible : clearly pay and allowances must keep pace with those in outside employment. I would argue, however, that it is equally important to ensure that the quality of life for service personnel keeps pace with that of

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civilians, and that will be an expensive operation at a time when manpower, as opposed to the cost of equipment, is taking a growing share of the defence budget.

The recruitment of ethnic minorities is also absolutely right in principle, and I am glad that there is now a degree of monitoring, but it is not likely to produce dramatic results. To establish the same proportion of ethnic minorities in the armed forces as exists in the population as a whole would mean only 800 or so more recruits. Similarly, it is right that we should give women more interesting, exciting and perhaps demanding opportunities, but we should not ignore the fact that the fall in the number of young women in the population mirrors the fall in the number of young men, and the Army will face severe competition from civilian employers in attempting to attract the required quality of recruit.

Like other speakers, I hope that the MARILYN exercise and the Government steps resulting from it will bear fruit. Against the background of increasing competition for scarce manpower, however, I believe that the Army must run very fast to stand still. That is why I find it so hard to understand the Government's decision on the future of the Gurkhas.

I felt that the Government's response to the Select Committee report was extraordinarily sketchy. It contains some vague references to squadrons of engineers, signals and transport, without explaining what "squadrons" means in terms of numbers. That seems to imply a substantial cut in the number of Gurkhas employed in those specialist fields. The Committee went to some trouble to point out the folly of losing high-quality, experienced and motivated engineers and technicians whose skills are in such short supply.

The Government recognised that recruitment would inevitably become more difficult as a result of demographic changes, but did not say whether they accepted the Committee's interpretation of the forecast figures. If they accept that interpretation, it is hard to see how they can justify proposing a cut of more than 50 per cent. in the Brigade of Gurkhas. If they do not accept it, it would be interesting to know on what basis the cut was suggested.

Paragraph 17 of the Government's response leaves open a loophole in saying :

"demographic difficulties could lead to increased numbers of Gurkhas being retained."

Surely, however, we are entitled to ask when the decision is likely to be made. The Minister accepted today that recruitment targets were not being met and that the position was worsening. How much will it worsen before a decision is made? Is the number to be 4,000, 4,500, 5,000 or what?

The response talks of progressive restructuring of the brigade over several years. Again, we are surely entitled to ask what that means. Does it mean natural wastage or redundancy, and what will the costs be? Far from removing uncertainty, the response creates more uncertainty. It gives the impression that we regard the Gurkhas as a reservoir and feel that we can turn the tap on or off to suit our convenience. If we can manage with 4,000 we will ; if we need more, we will simply take more. That is not the right way to approach people who have provided us with such dedicated service.

Every speaker who has mentioned the Gurkhas has commented on the extraordinary value for money that they give to the British Army. The Chairman of the Select

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Committee underlined the point about retention when he reminded us that 95 per cent. of Gurkha soldiers serve at least 15 years, whereas the average length of service for a British soldier is about five years. We make a tremendous effort to keep people in the British Army, while we find it extremely difficult to persuade Gurkhas to leave. Surely that makes the point about their effectiveness.

All of us who had the honour, privilege and pleasure of taking part in the Select Committee inquiry and who came to the problem for the first time were struck by the adaptability, dedication and enthusiasm of the young men who have come forward in such large numbers from the hills of Nepal to serve with the Brigade of Gurkhas. They represent a priceless asset to the British Army. The Government seem incredibly short-sighted in seeking, in the face of all the evidence, to reduce Gurkha numbers so sharply. I hope very much that they will think again, and will do so very quickly.

7.34 pm

Mr. Robert Boscawen (Somerton and Frome) : My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Sir. J. Spicer) spoke with considerable knowledge and practical experience about the helicopter needs of the forces in Europe. I wish to mention only one feature of the speech by my hon. Friend the Minister of State which rather disturbed me, on the question of Westland. In answer to an intervention, he said--rightly, in my view--that the best approach to the aerospace industry was the commercial, competitive approach. What worried me was that he did not share the enthusiasm shown by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State when he spoke in my constituency about the development of the vital EH101 collaborative project. The Government have expressed enthusiasm about proceeding with the project, and I trust that they will give the orders in future. I hope that in his winding-up speech my hon. Friend will convince us that the Government are still enthusiastic about a project that is so vital to the future of Westland and to a great many constituents. I did not wish to talk about the general NATO position. I was, however, struck strongly by the wise comments that we have come to expect from the robust speeches of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy). He said what all Conservative Members believe--that intentions are very different from capability. We would be very unwise to trust entirely to intentions before we see the capabilities of the Soviet bloc actually change, and to change our doctrine of flexible response in advance.

The reason for the existence of that doctrine, and the reason it is such an enormous advance, is that we would have no such doctrine and no means of applying it if we were left with the massive response of the strategic deterrent only in the last resort. I hope that the Opposition realise that, and will think long and hard before returning us to the previous position.

Lastly, I wish to raise two or three points that have been mentioned by hon. Members on both sides of the House and are worrying many of our constituents and have been drawn to my attention on numerous occasions about the problem of recruiting and retaining trained men in our services. They are twin problems, but they run absolutely together. However much we improve and spend on recruiting programmes, we shall not be able to recruit

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people when they see the people who are there already leaving in large numbers because they do not like the conditions.

Unlike some Opposition Members, I think that my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Ministry of Defence are well aware of the demographic complications and have been aware of them for some time. They are acting on ways to retain service men. So far so good, but what about the rest of the Government machine? That is what worries me. Have other Departments really got the message that they have to make changes in service men's housing, particularly in the means by which service men, especially those who have been in the forces for some time, are able to purchase their own homes?

It is 40 years or more since I was involved in various forms of soldiering but one thing has never changed and is as true today as it was then. I refer to the acuity and speed with which service men learn and understand what conditions are like for their contemporaries and friends in civilian occupations and homes. They are quick to compare, and when the gap gets too wide they seriously consider leaving. My right hon. and hon. Friends in all Government Departments have to take that into account. If they are to retain fully and expensively trained manpower in our services, they must ensure that the gap between conditions in the services and outside is not so wide as to push those already in the services out into civilian life.

My colleagues have mentioned the problem of the community charge. It is time that the Government gave us a full explanation of exactly how the community charge will affect service men in England and Wales. There are ugly rumours about what is happening in Scotland. Already service men in England foresee that they will have to pay a good deal more than they now pay in rates and they feel that is not fair. One of the main purposes of the community charge is to make local authorities more accountable. But if a service man does not stay in his barracks for more than a year or two, how can he use that accountability and vote against the local authority that has increased his community charge? Will service men have to pay a flat rate community charge? If it has been announced I am not aware of it, but I believe that the sooner my right hon. and hon. Friends announce the way that the community charge will work for service men the better.

It was fortunate and bad luck that, as so often happens the announcement on the future of the Gurkha regiment had to be made only a few weeks before the terrible atrocities were committed in Peking. However, one has to recognise that the good thing about the Government announcement in my view- -I have many connections with the Gurkhas, going back a long time--was that they are to be a part of the British Army in future. That secures the future of the Brigade of Gurkhas for a very long time ahead, although their numbers may be fewer. That was a major plus and should be welcomed and the Government should be given credit for that.

The lesson that we have always had to learn is that, if we cut our commitments, we shall have to look at the size of the forces needed for those reduced commitments. That is what I believe the Government were trying to do, having stated that inevitably our commitments to Hong Kong will reduce and there will have to be some cut in the number of in our forces. Nevertheless, the situation has changed and undoubtedly the Government are now in an exceedingly difficult position as a result of the atrocities last weekend

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in China in determining the exact requirements in future. I notice that my hon. Friend made it quite clear that we are talking about what will happen at least 10 years hence, and has allowed for a great deal of flexibility, Therefore, I am not quite as concerned as other hon. Members.

We must not forget the lessons brought home to us so vividly in the Falklands campaign a few years ago when the wrong signal was given by the Government of which I was then a junior member, in announcing the withdrawal of the Endurance from the Falkland Islands. With the best will in the world the announcement at the time had not taken into account what might happen in Argentina. We should be aware of that lesson about sending a false signal in the proposals that have been made for the Gurkha regiment.

7.47 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : I wish to raise two related issues-- first, justice for an ex-soldier and, secondly, the operation of military intelligence.

A month ago The Scotsman newspaper reviews editor asked me to review a book called, "Who Framed Colin Wallace?" by Paul Foot, published by Macmillan. I therefore read the book extremely carefully. It reinforced the impression that I had formed some two years ago when Colin Wallace and his friend Major Fred Holroyd spoke to me for three hours in the House. I started sceptically but came to believe that they were telling the truth.

Before any Minister observes that Paul Foot is a loony lefty or makes some unfortunate comment on my own judgment in these matters, let me say that among those who have gone on record as believing Colin Wallace are His Grace the Duke of Norfolk, the Second Earl of Stockton, the publisher and Macmillan's grandson, Herbert Asquith's grand-daughter Laura Grimond, Anthony Cavendish, a friend of Sir Maurice Oldfield, the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), and my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) who has done a great deal of work on the subject. Basically, Wallace's troubles began in Northern Ireland when he began asking two awkward questions of the Army authorities. The first was, why, when we know it is happening, do we let young boys be sexually abused at the Kincora boys home?

The second question was, why do we allow Army-related intelligence services to harrass politicians? This was long before the world had heard of Peter Wright ; it is the reason why Wallace was thrown out of Northern Ireland, and then harassed.

I want to ask some specific questions of the Ministry of Defence. Page 9 of Foot's book says :

"Looking back on his three years at Lisburn, Tony Yarnold"-- who was a lieutenant-colonel--

"has nothing but praise and admiration for Colin Wallace. Let's face it, Colin was the linchpin of the whole operation. He was terrific--way ahead of us all in his knowledge, his skill with the press and his readiness for work. Everyone wanted him all the time, and somehow he was always available.' ".

That is what Lieutenant-Colonel Yarnold is alleged to have said. Does the Ministry of Defence accept that view and is it on their records?

I asked the Minister whether Paul Foot on page 14 of his book accurately quotes the head of public relations on

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information policy, Peter Broderick, who took over as head of Northern Ireland Army Information in 1973. As I am constrained by time, the Ministry of Defence can read from the paragraph beginning "The Army by this time (1970)"

and the next paragraph starting "Consequently". The third paragraph says :

"Colin Wallace at first became a pawn in this game. Though on the staff of public relations, he was used by Information Policy as their outlet to the press. He also had a knowledge of the Irish situation which was totally unique in the headquarters and surpassed even that of most of the Intelligence Branch. As time progressed, he was not only the main briefer for the press, but also the adviser on Irish matters to the whole Headquarters and--because of his personal talents--contributed much creative thought to the Information Policy Unit. In order to do his job, he had constant and free access to information of the highest classification and extreme sensitivity." That was, allegedly, Peter Broderick's statement to the Civil Service appeals board in October 1975. I ask the Ministry of Defence to let me know by letter whether that coincides with its records. Page 18 says :

"Peter Broderick's official report has a revealing sentence : He [Colin] acted resolutely and to effect against anyone--Republican or Loyalist--who was destroying his country.' "

That was Broderick's statement to the Civil Service appeal board in October 1975. Does the Ministry of Defence accept that?

Page 259 states :

"The third allegation in the paragraph pooh-poohed Colin's claims that he had three times been recommended for decorations, with the single sentence : there is no record of this'.

There was, however, a record of it. Tony Staughton"--

who was a well-respected major in the army--

"head of the MOD Information Office in 1982, told me"--

that is, Foot--

"on the telephone and in interview that he had twice recommended Colin for the MBE and was so certain he would get it that he went out and bought champagne to celebrate it. He wrote this down in a letter of recommendation of Colin to Arun District Council : I twice recommended him for an award for his exceptional services, and felt it was most unfair that he was not so recognised.' Colin was recommended a third time for the honour by Peter Broderick, Staughton's successor."

Are those comments and those made on page 260 by Tony Yarnold true?

Is the long "TARA" memorandum beginning on page 96 at "Reference A" and finishing

"I would recommend therefore :--

(a) We make one final attempt to get the RUC to investigate the matter or at least discuss the matter with the RUC.

(b) We obtain very clear and unambiguous authority from London to proceed with a press disclosure"

in Ministry of Defence records?

I am not in a hurry, but I ask for a letter within a reasonable time about this matter.

Is the episode of the lost pistol, outlined on page 125, accepted by the Ministry of Defence?

What was Colin Wallace's crime? I believe that it was breaking ranks about revealing wrongdoing.

That is related to what happened this week in relation to what I can only describe as the rubbishing of Labour Members of Parliament. Today's Daily Mirror says,

"What a source!

Waldegrave makes a meal of smear story.

FACT : The lunch--at London's exclusive Mijanou restaurant, near Victoria-- was brought forward by Mr. Waldegrave's office for that day."

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