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Mr. Cohen: Before my hon. Friend comes on to me, may I comment on his response on ballistic missile defence technology? The one point that my hon. Friend missed out was that there is a treaty in existence. His missing it out implies that we would be prepared to agree with the United States that the treaty can be abrogated. Will he refer to that treaty?

Mr. Spellar: My hon. Friend should not draw that conclusion from what I said. I was talking about our interest in keeping in touch with, and considering, technology. We should have to consider treaty arrangements in parallel with that.

My hon. Friend helpfully read out not only his own views on several subjects, but the replies of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. That saved me a considerable amount of time. He also drew particularly helpful attention to the role of NATO, and especially of the UK, in retraining Russian officers to enable them to enter civilian life and find gainful employment. That has been of great assistance and has been much appreciated.

The hon. Member for New Forest, East started off with an interesting dissertation, which sounded for all the world like an Oxford seminar; I checked and found that he had attended that university and had been awarded a DPhil, so it was hardly surprising. I was most taken by his remark that he believed more strongly in defence than in a victory for one political party. From that, I draw the conclusion that he also believes in the need for a national defence policy. I shall deal with that later.

I was pleased that the hon. Gentleman had found the Commonwealth war graves internet site to be so useful. That site has been widely appreciated and heavily used. It has been of considerable help to many families. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for mentioning it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) made a considerable number of extremely detailed points. He would not expect me to reply to all of them this evening, but I or another Minister will certainly reply to him in the near future.

The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) is not in his place, but told me that he would have to leave the Chamber before the end of the debate. Not surprisingly, he mentioned the importance of air operations and paid tribute--with which I am sure that we all agree--to the air crews who served over Kosovo.

The hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) stressed the need for rebuilding in Kosovo. The hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) also pointed out that a considerable of amount of such work would need to be done. I am sure that both hon. Gentlemen will be encouraged by the discussions on south-eastern European stability. There is a need to recreate civil society and organisation as well as the important job of physical reorganisation and building.

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I was slightly surprised by the concern of the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South over procurement drop-back. I do not think that he really has read the answers to which he referred.

Mr. Hancock: I have.

Mr. Spellar: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has not drawn the right conclusions. I should certainly be more than happy to discuss the matter with him if he has some particular concerns.

I was also slightly taken aback when he said that not enough was being done about recruitment. I fully accept that we need to make further improvements in retention, but the recruitment story is a very good one. In all the services, the advertising campaign has been extremely good--as have the activities of the recruiting teams, including the ethnic recruiting teams. Ministers and senior officers can keep sending out the message, but what really gets through to the young man or woman in the West Bromwich labour exchange--which I visited recently--is hearing what life is like in Her Majesty's forces from people from the many communities. Those people are our best salesmen and they are doing extremely well. We are proud of them and are pleased with the work that they undertake.

The hon. Gentleman said that the case of the nuclear test veterans had not been examined. The case has been extremely well examined. I regret that he does not accept the answers that we, and the best scientific advice, have come up with. The case has been considered by the National Radiological Protection Board, not once but twice. People are entitled to make criticisms, but if they do so from a scientific standpoint, they should do it in proper scientific papers. Those papers should be published in peer reviewed journals so that they can be subjected to the scientific method. That is what the NRPB has done and that is what anyone else who wants to undermine or attack its arguments should do.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned those who have been afflicted with asbestosis and the other cancer that I always have difficulty pronouncing. He appeared to be speaking about civilian employees as well as service personnel, but my understanding is that civilian employees have all along been able to bring industrial injury compensation cases, and that the difficulty has been with service personnel, who have only more recently been able to bring such cases. I should be grateful if he would clarify that point.

Mr. Hancock: I was talking about both categories--civilian employees and service personnel. Service personnel never had that right before and they continue to have problems. Civilian employees have a problem of proof, because it is extremely difficult for them to gain access to documentation relating to their work, which in some cases was carried out 40 years ago. If a former dockyard employee spent his entire working career working for Her Majesty at the Royal Dockyard in Portsmouth, it should be obvious that the contamination came from that source. Such matters should be agreed in compensation cases but, sadly, they are not.

Mr. Spellar: I am sorry if there are such cases. My hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces will

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consider such cases as part of his general review of the problem. I should have thought that it would have been easier for dockyard workers to demonstrate the source of contamination than, for example, some of the people with whom I used to deal as a union official: contract workers on the Clyde who moved from company to company and were never formally employed in the shipyards. They had to get attestations from people who had worked with them or from employers, but the companies involved no longer existed. If there are unreasonable difficulties, I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman brought them to our attention and they will be examined.

Like other hon. Members, the hon. Gentleman spoke about the role of the Territorial Army. The hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk referred to the 10 per cent. who are already serving in Bosnia, and we value their role. I have visited TA units and I know that, in some areas, there was disappointment about some of the decisions that had been made; however, other units that were receiving new equipment and could see their future role felt a sense of excitement and renewed interest. The picture is more balanced than has been said and we do the TA no service by ignoring that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Healey) spoke about the refugees and the work in the camps. A few weeks ago, I was down in Maidstone with the Royal Engineers. All of us--in fact, the world in general--have been hugely impressed by the speed and professionalism with which they erected new camps for refugees. We remember seeing on television the tide of refugees coming across the border. The speed with which that apparent chaos was resolved by getting the refugees into proper camps where they had proper feeding facilities is a tremendous tribute to our personnel, who have continued to work in other camps. That demonstrates the role played by our armed forces in that region.

My hon. Friend mentioned defence diplomacy, which we stress strongly. In the former Soviet Union and in eastern Europe, our military personnel have undertaken a great deal of work, in particular to enable the transformation and evolution of the military in those areas. I have already referred to the retraining work in Russia.

My hon. Friend also referred to the campaign by the International Labour Organisation in respect of 18-year-olds and under-18s in the armed forces. In correspondence with him and other hon. Members, Ministers have set out the reasons why our recruitment policies are as they are. It should be stressed that the real difficulty with the recruitment of young people relates to those who are snatched and forcibly conscripted, either into armed forces, especially those of third world countries, or into paramilitary organisations and roving bands. There is a world of difference between such people and those who have been recruited in proper circumstances, with the consent of their parents, with the option to leave at certain stages, and with a whole range of other protections. We should not confuse the issues.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East raised one or two procurement issues. We were spared on this occasion questioning by my hon. F the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) who usually asks about that subject. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East informed me that he had to leave the Chamber, and I will write to him about the matters that he raised.

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I draw hon. Members' attention to the question of resources and expenditure, particularly in terms of the Kosovo operation. That matter has been raised previously--although not in this debate. Expenditure to the end of May totalled £43 million compared with £37 million to the end of April. That is actual additional expenditure and does not include committed expenditure or the cost of expended ordnance. I thought it useful and important to give those figures to the House tonight.

Kosovo is but the latest and most dramatic example of the wide range of activities undertaken by Britain's defence in the world. First, the Government's commitment to make Britain a force for good in the world is no empty promise. We continue to have worldwide interests and worldwide influence, as well as a huge number of British nationals around the world. Furthermore, the dedication and professionalism of British forces is known and admired across the globe.


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