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Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre): Does my hon. Friend agree that it is about time that national newspapers stopped simply publicising reports given to them by American aircraft companies without even considering the effect that that has on companies in Britain, and concentrated a little more on publicising the facts about what is going on in the aircraft industry in Britain?

Mr. Colvin: My hon. Friend, who has considerable experience of the Royal Air Force and the defence industry, made the argument extremely well.

I wish to mention a constituency issue. Many Vosper Thornycroft workers live in Romsey and Waterside and have a considerable interest in the outcome of the two-horse race between GEC Yarrow and Vosper Thornycroft for the orders for the final batch of three type 23 frigates. I am delighted to see my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) in the Chamber this evening. No doubt he will support what I say about that.

GEC already has a monopoly for submarines and a near-monopoly for service ships of more than 6,500 tonnes. Continued competition for the supply of frigates is essential. We are fortunate at present to have Vosper Thornycroft as a strong and capable alternative to GEC for the supply of frigates. Vosper has already

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demonstrated its capability to build large steel surface ships for the Royal Navy. One of those, a stretched type 42 destroyer, HMS Gloucester, is 3,880 tonnes and 141 m long, which is bigger and heavier than a type 23 frigate, at 3,500 tonnes and 133 m long.

Vosper Thornycroft can therefore build steel ships up to and including 6,500 tonnes, which is the size of the common new generation Horizon frigate, which is now on the drawing board.

We must ensure that there are at least two British yards in the Horizon contest to maintain effective competition within the UK. That, in turn, has a considerable effect on exports.

If that contract were lost in its entirety to Yarrow, Vosper Thornycroft's 1,500 shipbuilding work force would be cut by one third in 1996. Were the orders won, 500 new jobs would be created. That order is therefore vital to Vosper Thornycroft, which can deliver on price, time and to the highest quality standards required by the Royal Navy, and will help secure more export orders for the United Kingdom.

I add a final footnote. The current world security scene is decidedly disorderly. The stability of the cold war has gone. As an international trading nation, with many remaining small dependent territories and worldwide interests, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) described, it is vital to identify and quantify worldwide risks. To do that, we and our allies need the edge in intelligence. That is costly, and co-operation is essential.

It is said, rightly, that time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted. I trust that Her Majesty's Government acknowledge that need as part of the priority that they have given to our national security in the Gracious Speech, which I endorse and applaud.

5.27 pm

Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East): Although this day's debate on the Gracious Speech is assigned to foreign affairs and defence, one cannot escape the conclusion that that is something of a luxury, as only very recently we had the two-day debate on the defence White Paper. Therefore I propose to concentrate rather more on the foreign affairs aspects of the Gracious Speech.

However, I wish to comment about an issue that was mentioned in that debate as recently as two or three weeks ago, and which has just been mentioned by the hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin). He is now the distinguished Chairman of the Defence Committee, under whose chairmanship I have the pleasure to serve as a member of that Committee. That issue is the proposal to lease F16 aircraft instead of proceeding with the mid-life update of the Tornado F3.

The issue was canvassed to some extent in the two-day debate on the defence estimates, but there have been more recent reports suggesting that the F22 might be offered as an incentive to lease the F16. The hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside acceded to the point made by his hon. Friend the Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans)--that these reports emanate from a mischievous manufacturer of aircraft in the United States. My information is rather different. I believe that some person or persons close to the Secretary of State for Defence has or have suggested some preliminary enthusiasm for the idea. We know,

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following a question that I asked last week, that our fleet of Royal Air Force tankers is not fitted in such a way as to be able to refuel F16 aircraft if we were to lease them. So the possible costs of a proposal of this kind clearly require further investigation than they have so far undergone.

I do not shrink from the conclusion that if we proceeded to lease F16 aircraft, no matter at what giveaway prices they might be offered, the result could only be deeply damaging to the UK aerospace industry and in particular to British Aerospace. Certainly, if we are offered the F16, it will not come in its more recent variants, the E and the F; we will be offered the A and B versions, currently parked in the deserts of Arizona and for which an alternative resting place is being anxiously sought by those responsible for them.

If we proceeded in this way and accepted some sort of arrangement involving the F22, how could the Eurofighter project possibly survive? How could the United Kingdom continue to have a capability in this area; and what hope would there be for the HALO project--the high-agility, low-observability aircraft that is already under consideration? We would become wholly dependent on the United States of America.

It is notable that when such issues of supply of aircraft have been raised in the past between the United States and other countries, the intervention of Congress has often proved an obstacle. Hon. Members may be aware that the Government of Pakistan purchased a number of aircraft from the United States, but because of the intervention of Congress the planes have never been delivered, although they have been paid for. When the Saudi Arabian Government were desirous of purchasing the F15E from the United States they were not allowed to have the aircraft, again because of the intervention of Congress, and had to settle for what came to be described as the F15XS--the same airframe but with less capability than the F15E which the Saudi Government had wanted in the first place.

The point is that the process makes a country depend entirely on the United States, both industrially and militarily, and on the political will of Congress at the moment such aircraft are due to be supplied.

Mr. Colvin: I am grateful for the hon. and learned Gentleman's earlier remarks. Does he recall that the former Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), spent some time persuading the Italians not to lease F16s but to lease from Britain the F3 Tornado? Having persuaded the Italians to do that, the Government would look pretty stupid if they gave serious consideration to doing the precise opposite.

Mr. Campbell: The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point. I can do no better than echo his description: it would indeed look pretty stupid. But when this point was made to Ministers in the course of the two-day debate on the defence estimates, hon. Members will recall that their response was to the effect that Her Majesty's Government would not be fulfilling their responsibility unless they gave careful consideration to a proposal of this kind. On the contrary; I say that the Government would be guilty of a grave breach of responsibility if they proceeded in this way.

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I am sorry that the Secretary of State is not here at the moment. There has always been a relationship between political and procurement issues--so much is undeniable--but it would be wholly unacceptable if some anti-Europeanism were to dictate a procurement decision of this type. An anxiety to cement the Atlantic relationship at the expense of the United Kingdom's capability in this area would be misplaced and would be a price not worth paying.

On the matter of the reserve forces, it is generally accepted that it is time for new legislation, to take account of the reductions in all three armed services and of the circumstances that obtain following the end of the cold war. I have no doubt that the measure will command, in principle at least, universal support in the House, although there may be some differences of opinion over its detailed provisions.

Likewise, I deduced a large body of support in the House for the Foreign Secretary's remarks about the middle east peace process. Indeed, he spoke for the whole House when he emphasised the desire of this country and this Parliament to ensure that that process is not stalled or disrupted by the assassination of Mr. Rabin. He spoke rightly of the confidence of the Palestinian people being an important component in the peace process, and referred in particular to his experience in Gaza. I suggest that we should not forget the need to inspire the confidence of the Palestinians in other parts of the territories that are part of the peace process. I think especially of Hebron, where the issue of civil rights is one of acute importance.

I hope therefore that the Government, accepting the will on the part of this House to support the implementation of the peace process, will not avoid any opportunity to make the point to the Israeli Government that the confidence of the Palestinian people, in Gaza and elsewhere, will be fundamental to the continuation of the peace process.

The Gracious Speech refers both to the Western European Union and to NATO, and it is right on an occasion such as this, when we are considering wider issues, to mention both. It is important to remind ourselves of precisely what the treaty of Maastricht said. It states that the European Union should

That is rather tentative language; it hardly justifies the assertion made at a seaside town towards the end of the summer that Brussels would tell the United Kingdom how and when to fight. The treaty also says that the WEU should simultaneously be the agent for the European Union's defence identity and become the newly strengthened pillar of NATO. Other provisions in the treaty make it plain that nothing in the treaty is to be allowed to prejudice the obligations towards NATO which subscribers to the treaty have undertaken.

There is no doubt that we need to make the sort of contribution to our own defence envisaged by the Maastricht treaty. To be tackled effectively, it is self-evident that matters of security must be dealt with on a supranational or international level. Just as our economic success depends on a successful Europe, so I believe our security is better assured through a Europe in which security has a prominent part to play.

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As I have said before in this House, I am firmly of the view that the reduction in defence budgets will drive forward joint procurement and force specialisation as the only ways in which to meet the costs of advancing technology and to continue to provide a range of capability sufficient to meet any requirements that may present themselves.

I have no doubt that Britain's long-term security will be best achieved through a continuing American interest in Europe. We have a unique--although perhaps not a special--relationship with the United States. Our most recent ambassador to the United States, Sir Robin Renwick, spent much of his time in Washington trying to discourage the use of the phrase "special relationship". However, the two countries have a unique relationship in some respects, particularly in relation to the transfer of missile technology. The United Kingdom is the only country to which the United States supplies the Trident weapons system and it is the only country to which the United States is willing to sell the Tomahawk cruise missile.

However, we must remember that opinion in the United States about such matters is not set in concrete, any more than our attitudes are. Undoubtedly, in the United States there is a greater degree of interest in the Pacific than there has been for a considerable time. That means that there is an expectation--I believe it is entirely justified-- that Europe will undertake greater responsibility for our own defence than we have in recent times. I believe that that can be best achieved through a higher degree of integration, block by block and step by step, among the countries of the European Union.

In the matter of the enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, to which reference has been made, there would be very little point in enlarging it if the consequence was to weaken or to dilute NATO's collective defensive response, which the relevant article of the Washington treaty provides. It must be pointed out that that response involves nuclear means if necessary.

When people talk about a diminution of sovereignty if the United Kingdom accepts the social chapter, they should ask themselves what is a greater diminution of sovereignty: the acceptance of common standards in relation to maternity leave and things of that kind, or the acceptance of a treaty obligation that requires one to go to war in defence of any of 15 other countries, using nuclear means if necessary?

In the post-cold war environment I believe that a European defence policy is inevitable and is entirely consistent with NATO. However, we will not suddenly wake up and say, "Today is the dawning of the European defence policy." Such a policy will emerge on a case-by-case basis--block by block and step by step-- and if at some stage any of the parties to that process wish to reverse it or to stand aside from it, they will be able to do so. NATO provides the transatlantic link between Europe and north America. The European defence policy is a recognition of Europe's obligation to assume greater responsibility for its defence.

I turn briefly to the issue of NATO and Russia. Russia is special and, as such, must have special arrangements. Any effort to expand NATO to the borders of Russia without putting special arrangements in place could prove extremely destabilising. With the approaching two elections in Russia--for the Parliament and, in due

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course, for the presidency--we must recognise that a stable Russia, continuing on the path to reform and gradually adopting the kind of democratic institutions of which we would approve, is very much in our interests. We must be extremely careful about doing anything that might destabilise Russia or divert it from its path of reform.

On the matter of nuclear weapons, the Gracious Speech says that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to ensure that the

With the signing of the indefinite extension of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in May this year, those with an interest in nuclear disarmament--whether multilateral or unilateral--might have enjoyed feelings of hope and of optimism. Much of that optimism has been blunted by the French nuclear testing in the south Pacific, and let us not forget also the nuclear testing by the Chinese Government.

I cannot help thinking that we would have been better able to criticise the Chinese Government's decision to embark upon a series of nuclear tests if we had adopted a similarly critical attitude toward the French Government. If we accept the tests that the French Government have embarked upon--and which our Government are unwilling to criticise--I do not believe that our Government can then be critical of the Chinese Government. If one reads the exchanges from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty negotiations, it becomes clear that many of what used to be called the "non-aligned" nations--particularly the group of countries led principally by Egypt and Mexico--would have been very reluctant to sign an indefinite extension of the treaty if they had been aware that two of the nuclear powers which are permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations were intent upon embarking on a series of explosive nuclear tests soon after the treaty negotiations were completed.

Her Majesty's Government say that they will pursue negotiations on a comprehensive test ban treaty. I hope that all hon. Members support that course of action. However, we must remember that our ability to test at all is entirely dependent upon the good will of the United States. When President Bush announced a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, Her Majesty's Government did not accede to it, at least in theory, for some time--although they had no option but to do so in practice. I hope that the Government will pursue the matter with considerable vigour and enthusiasm. I believe that the signing of such a treaty would be an important milestone in long-term efforts to achieve a reduction in our reliance upon nuclear weapons for our defence.

I was interested to note that in the exchanges between the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), there was some dispute about public opinion. It is not just public opinion in the United Kingdom that is opposed to the French programme of explosive nuclear testing; the majority of public opinion in France is opposed to the tests. I do not suggest that we should always follow public opinion, but if one is seeking to gauge where the political balance lies on the issue, it is surely relevant to take some account of domestic public opinion in the country that is carrying out the tests.

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As to the chemical weapons convention, I believe that there is a sense of relief among those who have taken an interest in the matter that at last the Government are getting around to ratifying it, as is foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech. I certainly welcome the proposed legislation, but it must be examined carefully to ensure that it is sufficiently strong and that its terms are adequate to ensure that the United Kingdom complies with the provisions of the treaty and that we can demonstrate that fact to the rest of the world. I would like the United Kingdom to adopt best practice in its implementation of the treaty and to play a leading role in the international organisation that will be established to oversee the general health of the treaty.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs referred to the United Nations and he correctly drew our attention to the fact that it is much criticised and that many of its achievements are unsung. It is clear that the world is becoming more tribal: disputes are as likely to occur within states as they are to occur between states. That prompted the Secretary-General of the United Nations to produce a document some 18 months or two years ago entitled "Agenda for Peace". Apart from some initial attention, it has not received much scrutiny.

The Secretary-General said that the classic definition of sovereignty and the immunity from intervention that members of the United Nations enjoy under its charter may need to be reviewed. Internal instability--rather than instability between states--could have environmental, political or other consequences. It must surely be for consideration as to whether, in certain specific circumstances, the international community should have the right to intervene.

The United Nations has the opportunity to increase its responsibility, but it has more to be responsible for and in rather less clear cut circumstances than in the past. One thing is certain: deterrence is always cheaper than war. In 1988, the peacekeeping budget was $230.4 million. In 1994, it was $3,610 million. Over the same period, the number of military personal increased from 9,570 in 1988 to 73,393 in 1994. Between January 1992 and January 1995, 11 new peacekeeping operations were established, 82 per cent. of which involved internal conflicts.

The United Nations will not be able to operate unless all its members pay their dues on time. In that regard, we cannot ignore the fact that the United States has shown continuing reluctance to do so. That reluctance springs from doubt about the utility of the United Nations and we should bear that carefully in mind. If the United States ever took a similar view towards NATO, for example, it is possible to envisage circumstances in which dues might not be paid to that institution.

That reluctance to pay for peacekeeping, or the regular dues of membership, makes it necessary to reform the bureaucracy and the institutions of the United Nations so that it can better perform the responsibilities that we heap upon it. We need a United Nations agency for the prevention and suppression of conflict. We need to re-establish the United Nations military staff committee and we need a staff college so that those we send to carry out the difficult and dangerous activity of peacekeeping, shading as it sometimes does into peacemaking, are properly trained and understand just how different it is from high-intensity warfare.

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The United Nations may well need its own independent intelligence-gathering organisation and at some time in the future we must surely determine whether its interests are best served by a standing force or by assigned forces, which can move at much shorter notice than the time it takes those contributing nations that participate in peacekeeping operations to deploy their forces.

For the foreseeable future, the effectiveness of the United Nations will be related to the extent to which the United States is fully engaged politically, militarily and economically. We must ensure that the confidence of the United States in the United Nations is maintained, but we have also to ensure that the United Nations does not become the implement by which the policy of the State Department is carried out. There is a difficult balance to strike, but unless it is properly struck, the United Nations will lack the resources to do what we ask of it, or alternatively it will become no more than the handmaiden of United States policy.

In regard to Europe, I do not want to add very much to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) said yesterday. I believe that four principles should direct the attitude of the United Kingdom at the forthcoming intergovernmental conference.

First, we should reaffirm the proposition of the Prime Minister that the United Kingdom should be at the heart of Europe. Secondly, we should declare our intention to join the single European currency, if one is created and if the financial criteria are met, and we should be part of the preparations for that. Thirdly, we should declare that we seek the rigorous application of the principle of subsidiarity and the reform and reduction of bureaucracy. Finally, more for our domestic consideration than for the consideration of those with whom we shall be in negotiation at the IGC, we should declare that any substantial change in the constitutional arrangements between the United Kingdom and the European Union should be the subject of a referendum, so that the people of the United Kingdom can pass their judgment on what is proposed.

I should like to say more, but I am well aware that others are waiting to speak. In regard to aid, I hope that the rumours in September that there is to be a 12 per cent. cut in the aid budget are unfounded. I suppose there is a danger that if something less than 12 per cent. is cut, we will regard it as a victory. A 12 per cent. cut in the budget would mean a 40 per cent. cut in our bilateral aid to the poorest countries.

I do not shrink from saying that we have a moral responsibility. It would be quite wrong for us to cut what we give at the moment. We should remember that at the Rio summit the Government said that they agreed to and were doing their best to work towards the UN target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP. The principal aim of the aid budget should be to assist the poor to achieve sustainable social, political and economic development. That cannot be achieved by cuts in the budget.

In conclusion, in foreign policy we must surely have the foresight and determination to exercise value judgments as to which countries benefit from relations with Britain. Those that permanently flout human rights with oppressive regimes should not benefit from such

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relations. We should not accept in any part of the world any departure from those high standards. We should be robust in our criticism of Nigeria, where there was deliberate provocative, calculated, cruel and inhuman behaviour constituting a gross violation of human rights.

Totalitarian behaviour is surely unacceptable in a Commonwealth of which Her Majesty remains the head. I hope that sanctions, to which I referred in an intervention and others mentioned in their speeches, will be given serious consideration. I return to the examples that I quoted. We still maintain sanctions against Iraq because we believe they help to drive Saddam Hussein to implement all the Security Council resolutions. We have maintained sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro because we believe--and some suggest that we have been successful in this--that it is one way to persuade Mr. Milosevic to take a less difficult and obdurate line. If sanctions operate in those circumstances, we must give serious consideration to whether they will operate in the circumstances of Nigeria.

President Clinton was elected on the slogan, "It's the economy, stupid" as the electorate of the United States punished President Bush for the amount of time that he spent on foreign affairs. Governments are often elected on domestic policies, but as President Clinton soon found out, foreign policies cannot be excluded from consideration. One might argue that foreign policies are more likely to be influential on the reputation of a Government than domestic policies.

I cannot predict the battleground on which the next general election will be fought, but I am certainly convinced that when it is over and a new Government are installed, they will of necessity require to pay as much attention to foreign policy as to domestic policy and I hope that they will do their best to ensure that the reputation of the United Kingdom is enhanced.

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