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Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and he makes a number of extremely good points. Conflict prevention involves a number of different Departments working together, and it is a characteristic of the threats facing international security that they cannot simply be addressed by the armed forces; we have to ensure that we engage other Departments. Perhaps the most recent illustration of that involves the difficulties undoubtedly being experienced today in Nepal. We are working closely with the Department for International Development to ensure that there is a coherent approach to the problems of that country.
I would, however, emphasise that one of the lessons that we must learn from the appalling events of 11 September is that we cannot necessarily afford to ignore threats to our security simply because they appear to be in far-off countries and do not immediately threaten our interests. The one lesson, above all others, that I have learned from the events of 11 September is that we cannot simply put out of mind appalling regimes of the kind that we saw in Afghanistan on the basis that they are doing damage to the local population but may not be a threat to us. Globalisation means that that threat to us can occur very sharply, and in a very dangerous way.
Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport): Does the Secretary of State agree that the weakest link in our entire defence array is defence medical services, in which there are now shortfalls of as much as 75 per cent. in certain key faculties? He will know that this is not just a constituency interest for me, but one that involves defences generally. Our armed forces have not faced heavy casualties recently, but if we wait to reconstruct defence medical services until there are heavy casualties, it will be too late. Will the right hon. Gentleman look again at the whole of defence medical services? Will he also recognise that it will not be possible to reconstruct and improve them unless a proper training centre is available to improve esprit de corps, linked to the hospital ships and to the deployment of field ambulances, and that that should, of course, be the Royal hospital Haslar?
Mr. Hoon: I was about to agree with everything that the hon. Gentleman said. I certainly agree that there is still significant room for improvement in defence medical services. There has been some modest improvement recently, but we inherited a dreadful situation, which I am determined to tackle and get right. I believe that we have the right kinds of plans in hand to do that, and I certainly do not want our armed forces to be deployed without appropriate medical support.
Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement and the new chapter. Given the immense difficulties of ensuring homeland security against the threat of smuggled terrorist weapons of mass destruction, does he agree that, alongside the measures that he has outlined, there is an urgent need for us to strengthen international co-operation and treaties on non-proliferation?
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government put a great deal of effort into ensuring the success of non-proliferation agreements. Equally, however, it is my job, on behalf of the country, to look at situations that could arise in which those efforts could fail. Without being pessimistic about this, we need to have the right plans in place to be able to deal with the prospect of failure. That is why, while emphasising the importance of improving the co-ordination between our armed forces, in terms of their playing a part in defending the territory of the United Kingdom, I equally emphasise that that responsibility rightly lies with our Department for homeland defence, which is known as the Home Office.
Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South): I congratulate the Secretary of State on his statement to the House today. I welcome much of it, particularly the part relating to unmanned air vehicles. Will sufficient resources be devoted to the process of speeding up their development from a reconnaissance vehicle to an attack weapon, so as to achieve that quickly? Four times this afternoon, the Secretary of State has stressed that the new money will be spread over a five-year period. Much of what is required in the new chapter, however, needs money fairly quickly. I should be grateful if he would give an assurance to the House that the resources to carry out those developments that are needed speedily will be contained in the money that is available, and that we shall not have to resort to implementing cuts in the nation's existing defence commitments.
Mr. Hoon: So far as UAVs are concerned, part of the work that we would do would involve looking at the extent to which they require that offensive capability, as well as the reconnaissance aspect that they already enjoy. So far as any earlier spending is concerned, I would draw to the hon. Gentleman's attention this paragraph in my statement:
Mr. Hoon: A great deal of effort is made in that regard. We have already had questions on defence diplomacy, and part of the excellent work done by our armed forces is to ensure that we offer such training and assistance wherever possible, including specifically in Africa.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): We know that the extra chapter has been called forth by the events of 11 September. One of the most embarrassing aspects of that is the fact that the leader of al-Qaeda, many of al-Qaeda's financial resources and the majority of its personnel who committed suicide and killed so many people on 11 September come not from Afghanistan, but from Saudi Arabia. What steps is the Secretary of State able to take to ensure that we maximise co-operation with
Mr. Hoon: One of the beneficial consequences of 11 September, if I may put it that way, is the enormous improvement in co-operation right around the world, including with Saudi Arabia. As I said earlier, I have just come back from Russia. The co-operation with that country since 11 September could not have been imagined on 10 September.
That is a consequence of those appalling events that we need to continue to build on, so I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that we are working with Saudi Arabia and other countries that supplied nationals. We should not be too complacent: I still find it astonishing that United Kingdom citizens were involved and were prepared to go to Afghanistan and participate in terrorist operations. We simply cannot afford to point the finger at any other given country when we have similar problems.
Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): This is a significant new chapter and I welcome it. The devil is in the detail, and understandably the detail is not in the chapter. Will the Secretary of State assure me that due consideration has been given to the pressure on the Army training estates, particularly the defence nuclear, biological and chemical centre at Winterbourne in Wiltshire, the NBC Regiment and Winterbourne's neighbour, Porton Down?
Mr. Hoon: I can give that assurance but, as I said in my statement, we must work on those areas simply because we recognise the growing threat, which facilities such as Winterbourne Gunner and Porton Down in particular will give us the capability to deal with.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that, in combating terrorism, it is important to act within international and domestic law? Does he accept that, usually, that will involve seeking explicit authority from the United Nations? Does he accept also that he should generally come to the House for express authority for the deployment of troops overseas? Does he accept, finally, that we need to define in international law the rights of those who are alleged to be terrorists and who are held overseas?
Mr. Hoon: Let me make it clear to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, although I am sure it is not necessary, that international and domestic law involve recourse to the UN for specific authority, but that is not, as I think he suggested, an absolute precondition. As he well knows, there are many circumstances in which it is perfectly proper to take international action without specific recourse to the UN. The law relating to self-defence is an obvious example of that.