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Lord Lyell: My Lords, it is a rare pleasure to follow the wonderful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, at this late hour. He mentioned the A400M, filled with various things. Early in my career in Northern Ireland, in April 1984, my Secretary of State asked why I was looking so cocky. I said that I had had a dream in which I rented a Chinook helicopter for the day and filled it not with freight but with enormous bags and spray booms. Underneath it we had put a loudspeaker; your Lordships may remember the movie "Apocalypse Now" when the helicopters went in playing the "Ride of the Valkyries". I am not a terribly musical man, and I suggested we should play the Pope's Easter message Urbi et Orbi, bring the helicopter down and open up the tanks, on 12 July, filled with holy water, over an Orange parade. Quite rightly, the men in white coats came, but I survived five more years in Northern Ireland and, as a result, finished up on the Back Benches here.
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I speak tonight, at this late hour, with great humility, for one particular reason. I have the honour to have followed Lord Vivian as secretary of the All-Party Defence Study Group. I have been over 34 years with this particular group, all over the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
I should like to mention one particular aspect of my own very humble conscript career. On 4 May 1957, at precisely eight o'clock in the morning, I and 16 other young men were seized by a fairly tough Coldstream Guard sergeant, Sergeant Clements, who went by the name of "Kiwi". It was said he used boot polish for a variety of purposes. However, he was one of the smarter sergeants. Within eight weeks, he had turned me and 16 other young men into competent soldiers.
On 17 August 1957, some of us who had luckily been deemed as capable of officer cadet training tumbled out of a large truck at Eaton Hall near Chester to be greeted by the barking of a particularly tough Coldstream Guardsman, Mr. Blood, Senior. He was at one time Principal Doorkeeper in the Commons and the father of our Second Principal Doorkeeper here. It goes to show that in the British Army we have traditions, family roles and competence. In any event, those two gentlemen, among others, formed myself and many others into competent soldiers and infantrymenat least, I hope so.
When I came in today, I obtained from my files the most wonderful book called the Guide to Infantry Recruiting. The noble Lord, Lord Garden, tried to snatch it from me, which was a bit unfair as I am sure he knows every single word. I, unfortunately, do not. However, I looked at the front page, which gives wonderful quotations going right back to 378 AD. There were various other cracks from General George C Marshall. Before the war, General Marshall wrote that after the smoke and dust of the battle is over, you will find one man either with the sword or the crossbow or the rifle.
I am delighted to see the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, in his place, because he and I both know that the Swiss Army is one of the very best and greatest armies on the face of the earth. It has particularly tough and good infantrymen.
I then looked on page iii of this marvellous book and what did I find? It was signed by the Director of Infantry, Brigadier the Honourable SHRH Monro on 6 September 2000. But what did the Director of Infantry have to say? In the first chapter, he said that infantry is the heart of the British Army. I too have to agree with that.
Perhaps infantry training and infantry tactics have changed very greatly since I had the honour to serve with the First Battalion Scots Guards, No. 8 platoon. Surprise, surprise, on 14 July 1958, a very interesting event occurred inguess where?Iraq. A putsch of officers murdered the king and the Prime Minister, Nuri es Said. A brigade was prepared for action in the Middle Eastbut it was quite clear that it was going
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to be Iraqconsisting of the First Battalion Scots Guardswhich was my battalion and my regiment, commanded by Lord Cathcart. It was in those days the First Battalion of the Black Watch and I understand there was to be one marine commando.
Sadly, even thenI am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Bach, and the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, will quite understandthere was a great shortage of desert training. So where did they send the First Battalion Scots Guards? They sent them to Dartmoor, where there is three times the normal amount of rainfall and an appalling pong of wet webbing and rust and everything else. However, it was decreed eventually that we would not go to Iraq, but I never forgot the training that we had and what we did and what we were able to do, thanks to the marvellous Company Sergeant-Major Blood and Sergeant Clements, who looked after me.
After all the years that I have been studying and trying to follow the British Army and the plot, and all the aspects of our defence, in 1990, our all-party group went to Gibraltar. We had a marvellous display of something called "fighting in built-up areas". That is not necessarily to do with football teams when they win or lose on a Saturday, but it is apparently part of successful infantry tactics. That was a great development.
It was very interesting to hear the opening comments of the noble Lord, Lord Bach, and to read the comments of the Director of Infantry. Indeed, the Chief of General Staff says that we must live in the 21st century and the modern era. That is indeed so, but fighting in built-up areas and infantry training is just a little different from what I have been learning as well; that is, that now one does not talk of a battalion, but about a "battle group", with, in almost all cases, armoured reconnaissance, just as we saw when we visited the Household Cavalry Regiment in October this year. That will be so well known by my noble friend Lord Astor, who will have his turn to reply.
Later, in October this year, my noble friend Lord Attlee and I visited the Royal Engineers. In any battle groupit may be one, two or three companiesand in whatever they are doing, those infantry will have to have the same infantry training as we all need. That is the heart of the British Army. It is for that reason that I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Garden, and indeed other noble Lords who have looked at the mathematics of the so-called "arms plot" or the programme. I am afraid that I really believe that 40 into 36 will not go. This extra 10 per cent is stretching the elastic just gently.
My noble friends Lord Monro and Lord Sanderson mentioned the King's Own Scottish Borderers. I think that my noble friend Lord Astor will remember that we visited Cyprus in 1998. We found the King's Own Scottish Borderers, which was one of the infantry battalions there, in particularly good heart. It had been very, very well recruited.
My noble friend Lord Swinfen spoke of the activities of First Battalion Royal Scots and said it is being taken just as an emergency battalion for exceptional
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circumstances. I am afraid that the story of the Royal Scots makes a mockery of this 24-month plot with the British Army and the infantry.
I wish to conclude. I shall not follow my noble friend my noble friend Lord Selsdon by mentioning the Front Bench, except to refer to two occasionsonce when we visited the Kings Own Scottish Borderers, and once when my noble friend Lord Astor came with me and we visited HMS "Sheffield". In both cases, there were very serious problems, one with the cookhouse, the second with the galley. No sooner were we back in your Lordships' House than I and others had a word with the noble Baroness, Lady Symons. I do not know what happened, but I can tell your Lordships that within two months the Kings Own Scottish Borderers had their cookhouse and within two weeks HMS "Sheffield" had a new galley and the ship was sailing.
I do not know quite what happened, but I suspect that the captain of HMS "Sheffield"and I know the commanding officerare very grateful. Perhaps they are grateful to us, although they do not need to be. But that does show that we are very well served by some people in the Ministry of Defence. But we are also particularly well served by the British Army and the infantry. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Bach, and the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, let alone other noble Lords, will see that my simple mathematics of 40 into 36 will not go. Well, it may go up to 2008but for how long after that? But we are very grateful for what they have done and I look forward to what they have to say.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, I am rising to respond on behalf of these Benches to the debate today on the gracious Speech. That is an enormous challenge, given the range of expertise which is, as ever, apparent in your Lordships' House. I was amazed at the ease with which the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, and the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, gave their maiden speeches, and the wide knowledge and experience that they displayed. As other noble Lords have said, we look forward very much to their contributions in future.
I shall persist in calling the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, my noble friend, because he is that. Although I regret that he has moved to the Cross Benches, I can in fact see and hear him much better from here, which I much appreciate.
A wide range of themes and issues have emerged in this debate: international order; the role of the UN; the appropriate role of the UK in the wider world; the EU; and areas of particular crisis, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, Burma, Kashmir, Ukraine, Sudan and the DRC, to name but a few. There has been extensive discussion of defence from noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Garden, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the noble Lords, Lord Swinfen, Lord Lyell, Lord Monro, and Lord Gilbert. I look forward very much to seeing quite how the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, is rendered in Hansard.
One thing that has surfaced repeatedly is the international authority and the role of the United Nations. Looking at the role of such institutions
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historically, one can see that it is just over 80 years since the League of Nations was established and almost 60 years since the establishment of the UN. They have not been around for very long. Clearly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Park, and other noble Lords, have said, the UN has its limitations. Yet it is astonishing in historical terms to see an agency such as the UN there at all, and at the forefront of the fight against AIDS, at the forefront of humanitarian relief and reconstruction or of bringing warring parties together. It is surely a matter of moving forward from here, and not to marginalise the UN but to strengthen it. Therefore, I look forward very much to reading the report of the UN high level panel, of which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, is a member.
There has been some debate today about the relative blocs in which the UK finds or places itselfin alliance with the American superpower and/or working within the EU bloc. My noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire has made very clear quite what a junior partner we are in relation to the United States. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, pointed out that Europe, divided as it has been over Iraq, does not carry the weight that it should. Whether the EU is regarded as a counterbalance to the US or whether the US and the EU should work now closely together, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, suggests, surely we should welcome the enormously liberalising and democratising effect that the EU has had, as my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf pointed out.
However, most people most of the time are not thinking about the EU. When I am trying to get my children to school on time, I must admit that, sometimes, the EU is not uppermost in my thoughts. Presented with a choice on the EU constitution, having taken in conflicting and largely negative messages, people are likely to be conservative with a small "c" when voting in a referendum. Winning a referendum is hardly a foregone conclusion. So what on earth happens to our influence if we then become second-class Europeans? Can the Minister assure us that the Government are waking up to that?
That is very much the theme of that Speech. But is the world now a safer place after the invasion of Iraq? The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe and the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, in their chillingly powerful speeches, surely demonstrated the opposite. Although we all now want Iraq to be stable and peaceful, as the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, said, the history of how we got to this point affects what we can do now. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, said, to pull out would result in anarchy but staying in sustains and increases insurgency.
In that extremely difficult situation, how confident is the Minister that the elections to be held in January will include sufficient of the Sunni minority to command respect right across the country?
Also, what role does she anticipate the UN playing in such elections, given the dire security situation there? Do the Government have any hopes of involving other
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countries in the region in the reconstruction of Iraq? How confident is she that a new constitution acceptable to most Iraqis will then be written and that Iraq will not fragment because it is not written?
Can she also tell us what influence the UK has had recently with our American allies on how the operation in Fallujah was conducted? I am a pussy-foot, you see. Do the Government agree with the Red Cross's assessment of the situation there? Does she note that yesterday, UNICEF reported that acute malnutrition among Iraqi children has doubled in the past year?
There is also the Lancet article, which gives the most likely estimate of deaths in Iraq post-conflict as 98,000. My husband, who is a surgeon and oversees much medical research and whom I always believe, has vouched to me for the reliability of the methods used. What is the FCO's assessment of that Lancet article? Is the noble Baroness optimistic that things will start to improve in Iraq?
The noble Baroness will no doubt be acutely aware of the view in the Middle East and elsewhere that support for the United States in invading Iraq was a terrible mistake. But she will also be aware that many in the Middle East differentiate between the US and UK in their attitude to Israel-Palestine. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Howell, I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister raised that issue with President Bush, but clearly the lesson is that in acting alone we achieve little. The noble Lord is right in that.
As my noble friend Lord Dykes and other noble Lords have said, this must be a moment of opportunity. I welcome what my noble friend Lord Alderdice said about learning from Northern Ireland. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, pointed out, the men of violence must not be allowed to derail any peace process. Can the noble Baroness therefore say whether the Government see any sign that the United States will take a constructive role in the Middle East conflict?
Israelis desperately want security; the Palestinians equally desperately want their own state and economic development. That should constitute an opportunity. The measure of human development, educational achievement, is now moving rapidly backwards in Palestinian areas. I note that the Al Quds medical school is having enormous difficulty in training doctors because they are not allowed to travel to the school, and much now has to be done via distant learning. If you see a picture of the medical school, you will see that it is dwarfed by the wall. What pressure will be brought to bear on Israel to re-route that wall along 1967 lines so that it does not take in Palestinian lands? It is surely not sufficient, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, seemed to suggestI am sure that she did not mean thisthat to re-route is too expensive.
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