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Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I follow my noble friend Lord Grenfell in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, on his appointment to what I always thought was one of the most exciting and challenging positions in government. I wish him well. I congratulate him also on getting over the hurdle of his ministerial maiden speech, which is an ordeal, as I well know. I had to deliver mine within 24 hours of being introduced into your Lordships' House. I congratulate him very much on what he has had to say. I shall have a few more kind words for him shortly.

I ought to warn the noble Lord, if he will forgive me, about some of the—what shall I say?—thickets with which he may find himself confronted at the Ministry of Defence. Without detaining your Lordships with details, I suggest to him that if he were to go through the files on something called the AST 403, which has now emerged as Eurofighter—which started off as a plane that we were going to build with the French, optimised in the ground attack role and to be a Harrier/Jaguar successor, which was introduced to me in 1976—I think he will find the metamorphosis of the AST 403 into Eurofighter interesting.

My noble friend might also like to dig up the files on why our carriers—the Navy never allowed them to be called carriers; they were through-deck cruisers for many years—never had any close-in weapon system until we came to the Falklands conflict—I decline to call it a war—and they were bolted on within six weeks. He might also like to investigate the history of the lightweight torpedo and that of the Challenger tank. I could go on, but I will not. I think that he is in for a lot of entertainment.
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I also recommend to the noble Lord that he pay a lot of attention to the reports of an outfit called DOAE—Defence Operational Analysis Establishment—down at West Byfleet, where he will find, if it is still run as it was in my time, an extremely effective independent source of advice on the sorts of decision with which he will be confronted.

I thought that the noble Lord was going to surprise me pleasantly today about the C17, but he did not. What he said was that we were going to convert our leases for four C17s into purchase agreements and that we were going to buy a fifth one. Of course, that is all welcome news, except that we have known it for about a year. What I am interested in is whether he can confirm that there is a report that appeared in the 21 March edition of DefenseNews—an extremely good journal, if I may commend it to his attention—which states:

If my noble friend had been able to say that, I promise him that he would not have heard me going on about the A400M any more. But the story says that, back in March, a DESO spokesman said that we were considering leasing off about half of our short fuselage C130s in order to buy another two C17s. I cannot imagine a more welcome decision. I hope very much that my noble friend will be able to communicate to me and the House that that is what the Ministry of Defence is considering.

With respect to the rest of the debate, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Truscott on being the first person to talk about Russia and to talk about it at great length in, if I may say so, an extremely well informed way. He very much enriched our debate in that respect, as of course did the ineffable—the marvellous—noble Baroness, Lady Park. You are always right, Lady Park. It was wonderful to hear you today. The ridiculous pettifogging economies that the Foreign Office is considering making for embassies and consulates abroad are so short-sighted. I agree with you completely. The amounts being saved are ridiculous. When you compare it with the total Foreign and Commonwealth Office budget and aid and so on, it is absolutely counterproductive. I could not agree more.

I had intended to start my remarks today by referring to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and saying that he wrote rather better letters than he made speeches. I am a fairly assiduous reader of the correspondence columns of the Financial Times, and I saw the noble Lord's contribution earlier this week. He has forgotten it already, judging by the expression on his face, but it was a good letter. If he will forgive me for saying so, he made a good speech today. I hope that he is not embarrassed.

With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, I am glad to say that I revert to my usual position of almost total disagreement with everything that he says. He is a charming man, but he really is so uninformed. It is a delight to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. He said today that when we had a debate coming up in the country on whether we should subscribe to a European
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constitution—I hope that I do not misquote him—we would find the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties on one side and the Conservative Party on the other. That shows all that a distinguished mandarin knows about that.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, I am afraid that it was a misquotation. I referred to the past and to the manifesto commitments of the three parties, which were as I described them.

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, if the noble Lord thinks that manifesto commitments are any precursor to what will actually happen, that reinforces my remarks. He is a lovely man. That is the world that distinguished mandarins inhabit; they read manifestos. The noble Lord, Lord Garden, on the Liberal Democrat Front Bench had obviously been reading the Labour manifesto; I have not read a Labour manifesto in 50 years, and I have not the slightest intention of doing so. They do not have any relevance whatever to practical policies, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, should know that. If anyone thinks, and if this Government think, that a debate on the constitution in this country will have the Conservative Party on one side and the Labour Party on the other, they are in for a very big shock. Both political parties are seriously divided on the matter, and we will see what will happen if we get a referendum on the constitution.

There is one other point that I wanted to take up with the noble Lord, Lord Hannay—I am happy to give way again—with respect to the fact that there was no derogation from unanimity rules in matters of taxation. What is happening in Europe is a constant process of harmonisation of corporation tax by judicial decision, and no one is paying any attention to it. We already have a harmonised value-added tax; we already have harmonised customs duties; we are well on the way to getting harmonised corporation taxes; and the only thing that will be left to the discretion of individual Parliaments will be income tax and death duties. I predicted this—it was not difficult to predict—back when we had a referendum. It has come to pass, and it was always going to come to pass.

There is something else that I want to say about Europe. I have always been a little puzzled by Henry Kissinger's question, "What number do I telephone when I want to find out European foreign policy?". That struck me as the most extraordinary question. Lots of people get themselves in a lather, saying, "We will supply Dr Kissinger with a telephone number so that he can find out what European foreign policy is". If we substitute Asia for Europe, the question becomes ridiculous. Why should you ring a telephone number to find out Asian foreign policy? As soon as you put the question in those terms, the idiocy of the question becomes clear. I want to make it absolutely clear beyond peradventure—I am not particularly politically correct—that I am not in favour of an agreed, single, European foreign policy. That is a very bad idea—unless it is my foreign policy, and then it is a wonderful idea. If it is anybody else's foreign policy, I do not want it, thank you very much.
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It is clear to me that if we had had an agreed European foreign policy we would not have gone into Iraq, which was an activity that I thoroughly supported; and we would not have liberated the Falkland Islands, which was another activity that I thoroughly supported. God knows what would have happened to Gibraltar by now. I am not in favour of a single European foreign policy; unless of course it is mine.

I have only one other thing that I want to say; I apologise for detaining your Lordships. It is about UAVs and is a point for my noble friend the Defence Minister. This country has had a rather unhappy record with respect to UAVs. We have been very slow off the mark and have taken a long time to develop them. Those that we have developed have been unsatisfactory, and we could do with a lot more openness—I do not pin anything on my noble friend, of course—on these matters.

I noticed from a recent edition of DefenseNews, a newspaper that I read regularly, that the United States navy recently published a wish list for unmanned underwater vehicles. Would you believe that it is 97 pages long, just on underwater unmanned vehicles? We are never told about what the British Ministry of Defence is thinking, what its aspirations are or how far it has gone. It would be very helpful if the Government could take the country into its confidence about UAVs in particular, but not only about them—about vehicles whether airborne, on land, undersea or on the surface of the sea. We would all benefit from a lot more openness, and I am glad to see my noble friend acknowledge that. Again, I wish him very well in his new responsibilities.

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