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Mr. Quentin Davies: On behalf of the Opposition, I may say that we absolutely share that point of view. The carriers are essential as the key point of the expeditionary strategy, and real worries exist about the Government's genuine commitment to them. However, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that there is no point in spending all that money on carriers if we do not have the skilled combat pilots ready, trained and able to fly the necessary aircraft? The fact that we have a deficiency of 125 combat pilots, and only 230 who are combat ready, is an absolute scandal. We will need to know how that issue will be addressed in short order when we have the statement on the carriers.

Mr. Campbell: That contribution stands on its own, rather than as an intervention. I agree with a deal of it, if not necessarily with the tone in which it was couched. Indeed, one must also consider the aircraft that will go on the carriers, as well as the carriers themselves. The

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Government have committed £1.4 billion to the joint strike fighter programme. The success of that programme and the construction of the carriers go hand in hand. They are essentially two parts of the same whole. If the Defence Secretary is committing the Government once again to the two-carrier programme, I hope that he will also say something about the joint strike fighter and the progress of that programme.

We welcome the fact that an arms export Bill is to be introduced. It is the long overdue implementation of a commitment that the Labour party made in opposition at the time of the Scott inquiry. The Scott inquiry pointed out in sharp terms the fact that arms export legislation was outdated and did not reflect what was necessary or desirable in a modern democracy.

The Labour Government published a White Paper in 1998, and the draft Bill in 2001, but urgent though the issue seemed when Labour was in opposition, it somehow appeared to lose some salience once Labour came into government. I hope that the Bill will be introduced at an early stage. We shall seek to improve it as far as we can to ensure as much openness and transparency as possible in the export regime. We shall look for measures to provide for prior parliamentary scrutiny of selected licence applications. The joint committee of the four Select Committees made some heavyweight recommendations in that regard in the previous Parliament. We shall also insist that the licensing and regulation of arms brokers is properly addressed, and that much greater control is taken of end-user certificates. We shall continue to argue for the ending of export credit guarantee subsidies for arms exports.

We also want the Government to tell us when we will receive the much promised but long delayed Green Paper on mercenaries. We were promised it throughout the previous Parliament, but we have not yet seen it.

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe): As the right hon. and learned Gentleman is touching on exports, will he say something about his party's general attitude to trade? I do not know whether he was aware of the visible exasperation expressed by the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) during the perfectly sensible remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), the shadow Foreign Secretary, about the importance of global free trade and of further liberalisation of trade. Perhaps he could tell us something about his party's attitude to that.

Mr. Campbell: My party was the free trade party at a time when the absence of support for free trade in the Conservative party was responsible for one of those periods in the wilderness that have already been referred to. We remain committed to free trade, but no one who is committed to free trade can fail to have some anxieties about the extent to which multinational corporations, which often have turnovers far in excess of the gross domestic product of many countries, are in a position to avoid their obligations to pay tax or to take responsibility for acts of negligence.

While I am wholly committed to the principle of free trade, I am equally committed to the notion that companies, wherever they are situated, should be obliged to fulfil their legal and ethical obligations. Much of the anxiety that people feel about globalisation, which is

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sometimes demonstrated on the streets when international meetings take place, is based on the notion that some companies are so enormous that they are above the law. The shadow Foreign Secretary talked about the need to ensure that civil liberty and the rule of law marched robustly side by side. I agree with that, but if there is the rule of law for individuals, there has to be the rule of law for companies too.

Dr. Tonge: Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Campbell: If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I will make some progress; I know that she takes a close and effective interest in international development.

We welcome the reintroduction of the International Development Bill because we believe that poverty reduction should be at the heart of all Government policies on aid. There was a defect in the previous Bill. Although it was said by implication to bring an end to the notion of tied aid, the Bill contained insufficient measures to make that specific. We hope that in reintroducing the Bill, the Government will make some effort to meet the legitimate criticisms that my hon. Friend made of the Bill during its passage through the House.

I suspect that our dismay was shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House that the Bill fell in the period immediately before the dissolution of Parliament because it could not be given a fair wind by Conservative peers in the upper House. That was curious, because the Bill went through this House on the basis of virtual all-party support--an extraordinary amount of consensus. I cannot remember any debate that was genuinely adversarial. I hope that when the Bill comes back, it will make the swiftest possible passage through this House and the other place to make up for the fact that it was unnecessarily and unduly delayed.

Missile defence is an issue that, in political terms at least, will run and run. I personally remain unconvinced of the case for missile defence. I am unconvinced of the threat assessment on which it is based. As I have said in the House before, the classic analysis of threat takes into account capability plus intent. It is true that the capability to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery is already more freely available. However, if one bears it in mind that totalitarian regimes go to a great deal of effort to ensure self-preservation, why should we assume that they would accept the risk of destruction by using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against the United States?

It is right to say that the doctrine of mutually assured destruction has its roots in another period, but that doctrine has at the very least been modified by a number of factors since 1972 and the anti-ballistic missile treaty. NATO has adopted the nuclear doctrine of minimum deterrence, and regards nuclear weapons as weapons of last resort. START 1 and 2 have had an effect on the doctrine of mutually assured destruction. The doctrine has also been modified by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. I argue strongly that it was further modified by the declaration made last year in New York by the five declared nuclear powers at the NPT review conference. All that suggests to me that there is a structure on which it has been possible to achieve a nuclear balance. Of that structure, the 1972 treaty remains a part.

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How can we be so confident that a unilateral United States withdrawal from that treaty would not affect the structure? The structure is based on mutual obligations and interdependence. Unilateral action by the United States would inevitably disturb that structure. I am not alone in believing that.

Some hon. Members seemed to express the view that in the United States there is monolithic support for national missile defence. It will not have escaped the notice of any of us that control of the United States senate has passed from the Republicans to the Democrats. Senator Tom Daschle, the new majority leader, Senator Carl Levin, the new chairman of the armed services committee, and Senator Joseph Biden, the new chairman of the foreign relations committee, have all expressed reservations about NMD, in almost exactly the same terms as I have done today--so there is no monolithic view in the United States.

We ought to have a much wider debate in Britain than we have had until now. It is disingenuous for the Government to say, "Well, they have not asked us, so we have not felt it necessary to make a decision." We know that there is a nuclear planning cell in the Ministry of Defence. What on earth has it been doing for the past 12 months if it has not given consideration to the effect on Britain's nuclear policy if NMD goes ahead?

The unanswered question is always, "What of China?" No one in Britain or the United States has produced an acceptable political solution to the obvious reservations of China and the threat that it might feel compelled to modernise and increase its nuclear arsenal if NMD were to proceed.

Iraq has been mentioned briefly during the debate. There are allegations--perhaps the Defence Secretary will take the opportunity to say something about them--that about 23 deaths were caused in the northern part of Iraq by allied aircraft. That was denied by the Ministry of Defence, but has been put forward with a great deal of vehemence on the Iraqi side. Perhaps the Secretary of State will be able to enlighten the House a little further.

One thing that cannot be denied is that the patrols continue both north and south. Those combat air patrols are not expressly authorised by any United Nations Security Council resolution. If one reads the resolutions that are prayed in aid, one sees that it requires a pretty extended interpretation to suggest that they give authority for what is going on. When the Defence Secretary himself gave evidence to the Defence Committee in the previous Session, his evidence, which I have read in detail, was to a large extent based not on the Security Council resolutions but on the general right of humanitarian intervention. The right hon. Gentleman is a pretty confident fellow, but his evidence on that matter as given to the Defence Committee was pretty thin.

The risk is that one of these days the Iraqis will get lucky. One of these days, the air defence system, which we seem determined to suppress, will be successful; if it is not an American pilot or American air crew, it may well be British air crew who are killed or brought down and taken through the streets of Baghdad as an enormous propaganda opportunity for Saddam Hussein.

We know that the patrols now offer no protection of any kind on the ground in the south. In the north, there are reports of allied pilots finishing patrols and returning

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to Turkish air bases so as to allow Turkish aircraft to take off to harass the very Kurds who have been under allied protection earlier in the day. We need a wholesale review of policy towards Iraq. As I have said, I do not believe that the patrols can be described as authorised in the way that is claimed. There is considerable suspicion that the purpose of those patrols is not to provide protection but rather to continue the degradation of the air defence system in Iraq. In other circumstances that might be justified, but it is not, in my judgment, made legitimate by the legal instruments that are prayed in aid to support it.

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