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As a result I would find myself sitting with Matrix Churchill in Iraq discussing the problems of the supergun. No one really knew where it was pointed but we knew of Mr Bull, who had decided that it may have been blown up by the Israelis in Amsterdam. The Iraqis regarded it as something of a phallic symbol, too. It was a remarkable piece of kit that scared the living daylights out of everyone. That was where the name “Living Daylights” came for the James Bond film, but that is another story.

Then I had to go to Iran after the Iran-Iraq war. That was pretty moving, because I had not realised how people had suffered. The Iranians wanted to know if I could help them with Lord Roberts’s workshops because so many of their people were shell-shocked that they did not know what to do. They allocated one-third of their industrial production to establish an organisation called Razmandegan Islam, the “fighters of Islam”. Although one may object to some of the ways that fanatical countries can be, we have to go back to the time when the Americans had their hostage problem; I was working in a banking group and we had to be involved, directly and indirectly, in the payment of blood money.

When we had no diplomatic relations with Libya, the Foreign Office or someone else would say to people like me, “You must go to Libya”. We would go to Libya and be very well received. All the time one was looking at trade—but because I have a sense of direction, I also use maps. When I look at a map, I say to myself, “In the European Union everyone is thinking of the country next door, not other countries that may be of mutual value or appreciation to each other”. The German foreign policy was always beggar-my-neighbour—a good card game. They never went off abroad. As your Lordships will remember, the Germans had only one adventure in Africa. I have used this before, but it is one of my favourite stories: 700 Hottentots managed to defeat 3,000 German soldiers.

One of my favourite countries was Afghanistan. The Afghans are quite remarkable people. I have a tremendous fear when I look at the map and say, “Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan”—and realise that around them are another 15 to 16 countries in extremely strategic positions between natural resources and raw materials that are vital to the West. You might say, “Maybe there are a few people around who want to stir things up. Why should the British have to do it alone?”. That is why I was impressed with the noble Lords, Lord Jopling and Lord Luce, who were simply saying, “Get the Commonwealth, NATO and the European Union together”. Who else is providing support for the creation or preservation of democracy that will never even come to these countries? That is not the way they decide over there. They need strong rulers, who we can only hope are benevolent.

I worry very much about this at the moment, because I feel we are in one of the most dangerous

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periods of my whole life. I do not know why; there have been terrorists before. When I was in Cyprus the EOKA started with 100 people, who then made friends with the Church. I was there between 1956 and 1958, by which time—and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, will know this—there were something like 100,000 troops. When we look at the experience of Suez and other interventions around the world, we have to think carefully. I see the great Russian bear stirring. When an ex-KGB Russian leader takes his shirt off and stands there looking muscular, there is a feeling that he is saying, “Let’s stir it up and see what comes out. We cannot lose”.

I was most impressed, as I always am, by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons. As she is not in her place, I shall say that I was told the other day that normally when she travels she puts on a bunny suit. I never thought of her as being the bunny of the Labour Benches.

I represent not only the 19 million people who did not vote in the last election but another group—the 52 ambassadors who, on 27 April 2004, wrote to Mr Blair saying:

What are the political objectives? I asked, in a Written Question, if we could have an answer to that question. I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, who has a considerable background in this field. As the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, said, more officials must now be involved in foreign affairs; more Foreign Office ambassadors, and more money. I would like an answer to that.

My final question addresses the sad departure of the noble Lord, Lord Drayson. I did not think he was a suitable person when he arrived in the House, but when he left I thought he had done an extraordinarily good job. He and I had only one thing in common: my father spent most of his life, and all our family money, motor-racing—and he won Le Mans. But there is a sad note—and I hope this had nothing to do with the noble Lord leaving—in yesterday’s judgment that Fusilier Gentle was unlawfully killed. I would be grateful if the Minister felt able to comment on that, because the reports in the press are pretty damaging. If our forces are not provided with the right equipment we should ensure that they are, rather than allowing people to attack us.

9.35 pm

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I, too, may say some things that I regret this evening, but not for very long, I suspect. I first pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, who was an extremely good defence procurement Minister—one of the best that we have ever had and, as I said to his face, in some ways at least but not in every way, he was rather better than I was.

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On a more serious note, this is the first opportunity that I have had to say how much I regret the absence of Lord Garden from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench. His contributions to our debates were magnificent. I did not always agree with him, but I shall miss him very much.

I congratulate my noble friend Lady Taylor on taking over what is one of the most interesting jobs in government; I am sure that she will enjoy it. I give her only slight warning that, the next time we meet, I shall be talking about the A400M; I suggest that she briefs herself on that subject before 22 November. I give her just one warning: that she will unfortunately find herself to a large degree a prisoner of decisions of her predecessors, which is one of the great constraints of being a procurement Minister.

When I consider some of the other appointments that have been made, I find my spirits lifted, because they prove to me that the Prime Minister has a sense of humour. Some of his appointments to this House are some of the most hilarious that I have ever seen anywhere. I had better not go beyond saying that at this stage, but I think that noble Lords will know to what I refer; if any of them do not, I refer them to an article in the Sunday Telegraph and one or two others for their entertainment.

However, while the Prime Minister disported himself with some of his appointments to this House, I took as very unfunny an appointment that he made down the other end. Here, I echo the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater. The double-hatting of Defence Secretary with Scottish Secretary is one the most disgraceful appointments that I have ever heard of. I hope that the Prime Minister realises the damage that it is doing to him, to his party, to the Government and to people’s respect for government. There are people who have relatives serving in the Armed Forces—young men and women at risk. We all know that Cabinet offices in this country are part-time jobs, because one has a salary as a Member of Parliament and as a Cabinet Minister. That the Defence Secretary’s job has been divided further, so that he answers Scottish Questions, is—I am trying to find a moderate word—deplorable.

I note that there is not a single mention of the Armed Forces in the gracious Speech, which also is deplorable. I am glad that my noble friend Lady Taylor made reference to them in suitable terms, as have many of my colleagues from the Floor of the House today. There is no reference in the gracious Speech to NATO or our relationship with the United States. Those are significant indicators of the attitude of the Prime Minister of the day, which I do not find congenial.

I again agree with the noble Lord, Lord King, about the dismantling of DESO, which also was a great mistake. It is rare that I find myself agreeing so often with the noble Lord, Lord King. In fact, until today I had always thought that the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, had showed impeccable judgment until I heard that he had been consulting the noble Lord, Lord King, on matters from time to time—and then for the first time I began seriously to worry.

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While I have the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, in front of me, I say that I agree very much with a lot of what he said about the Commonwealth. However, I hope that if he reads Hansard tomorrow he will reflect on his remark that we should make greater use of the Commonwealth. I would have preferred it if he had said that we should make a greater contribution to the Commonwealth—and I hope that the noble Lord takes that on board.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, is not in his place at the moment. He said that the United Kingdom could never move alone in important matters such as international affairs and security matters. I am sure that he is right. It was his reaction to that constraint that piqued me, when he said that he immediately thought of turning to his neighbours. That is not my first reaction—I would turn to my friends, who are not necessarily my neighbours, with the exception of our great friends the Irish, who share these British Isles with us. I was very impressed by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, today. I do not think that the best friends of this country are our closest neighbours; not by one little bit do I think that. I know that there are some ex-Foreign Office types who think somewhat differently from me; I do not mind. I shall say it again: I do not think that our closest friends are our closest neighbours. Now I have got that off my chest.

There is just one other serious thing that I want to say, about Iran. I suspect that your Lordships do not fully appreciate how dangerous the situation is with respect to Iran and the United States at the moment. I was fortunate enough to be at an international conference a couple of weekends ago, where an American who had very close ties to, and was at one remove part of, the current American Administration described current American attitudes to Iran. They are very, very close to taking a decision to attack to Iran if it acquires nuclear weapons. If I am correctly informed, all eight of the leading presidential candidates of the two political parties have said that the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran is unacceptable. That language is unambiguous. I think that we all know what the current attitude of the present American Administration is.

I personally see no chance whatever of sanctions inducing the Iranians to come off their current course. I make no predictions as to the behaviour of Mr Ahmadinejad and I say nothing about how much influence he has in the Iranian Government, as there are others far better informed on that subject than I am. But if we—or the Americans, because I think that they would do it alone or with help from very few others—were to attack the Iranians, the consequences would in my view be absolutely catastrophic.

As your Lordships will know, I am not one who shrinks from supporting the use of force in circumstances in which I consider it appropriate, but this is a set of circumstances in which the consequences for all of us could be appalling. The Iranians clearly have the capability to close the Straits of Hormuz. I do not mind how many carrier battle groups the Americans like to put in the Persian Gulf, if the Iranians were determined to close them there is

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nothing that they could do to keep the Straits of Hormuz open without a land invasion of Iran—and just think about that.

I have taken too much of your Lordships’ time, and I apologise, but I hope very much that Her Majesty's Government will make it absolutely clear at all levels—on the Hill, in the executive branch, to Republicans and Democrats alike—that this country could not support our American friends if they decided to use force as a weapon to deprive the Iranians of nuclear weapons.

9.44 pm

Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, it is daunting enough to be No. 40 on an evening like this, especially after the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, with which so many noble Lords agree. I am sorry if my speech is an anti-climax; I shall have trouble competing with that of the noble Lord.

I should like to talk about the Armed Forces themselves and the welfare of our servicemen because they are the most important single element of our Armed Forces. Failure to recognise this would have a seriously detrimental effect on recruiting, retention and operations in support of much of our foreign policy. I am concerned about the effects of the present conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and, indeed, any future conflicts, on our soldiers and their families in years to come when many of them may no longer be serving. However, the effect will still be there in the community.

I must declare several interests. I am honorary colonel of the Second Battalion of the Royal Irish, which were the Rangers, who are going to Afghanistan next year. I am president of the Army Benevolent Fund in Northern Ireland. This is all relevant to what I am going to say. I am president of the Ulster Defence Regiment Association and I am on the board of a brand new UDR and Royal Irish Regiment aftercare service, more of which later.

I shall not address the issues of battlefield casualties as they are already in medical care, except to join others in expressing sympathy to all those who have suffered and to their families. I am interested today in those who may seem unaffected in the short term but who in years to come may show symptoms and have problems which inevitably affect those most dear and closest to them. This is not a guesswork prediction but a certainty and will be a greater problem than we all expect.

Due to our experiences in Northern Ireland during the last 37 years—I accept that the conflicts are different—the military and the police are at the forefront of coming to terms with these problems. This is all well researched, in particular in a paper written by an HQNI command psychiatrist, Commander Ronald McKinnon, who was later a consultant on combat stress. The paper concerns the effects of cumulative stress, which is quoted by many experts today as “corporate suffering”. It is important to note that the corporate element here is the complete family circle of the service personnel. A measure of this is that we have had 62,000 people serving in our home service forces in Northern

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Ireland and we now have almost 6,000 live cases of many descriptions needing welfare support. Although the peace is only recent, this occurred some time after the major conflict.

The police in Northern Ireland were the first to tackle this issue. Under the Patten review they set up the Police Rehabilitation and Retraining Trust in 1999. A point to note is that this is funded by the Government—outside the police budget—at £2.2 million per annum. The Government are also providing £2 million a year to the Northern Ireland Police Fund to alleviate suffering.

This year the UDR and Royal Irish aftercare service has been put in place based largely on the PRRT with a psychological, neurological and physiotherapy support centre planned to be co-located with the police facility. The cost of this package is approximately £2 million a year, to be reviewed after five years. I shall not go into all the details of it here and now; I just wish to establish the principle of the support that we should be demanding for our service community throughout the Armed Forces. The mission statement of our aftercare service is fairly simple—to provide and facilitate appropriate welfare, vocational, medical and benevolent support to ex-members of the UDR and Royal Irish Regiment (Home Service) and their families in order to reduce suffering. A service such as this should be available to all British service personnel.

Some have said that Northern Ireland is lucky and is a special case. I say that the provision of this service restricted to one regiment is not lucky, exceptionally earned or anything else. It is fair and justified, and it is only fair and justified to provide it to our entire service community in future. Some people—some are members of organisations to whom I have talked recently—say, “But we have regimental associations, the Army Benevolent Fund, the Royal British Legion, Combat Stress, et cetera”. First, we have all those in Northern Ireland. Secondly, we have a valuable UDR and Royal Irish Regiment benevolent fund that yearly disburses £700,000 in addition for deserving cases. We still need the aftercare service on top of all that. The Government often rely on charities to carry out functions that the public purse should fund, and they should look at that. They always welcome such charities as Help for Heroes, of which I am becoming a patron. It is a good charity, but no wonder people welcome it when it does the job that they should do.

You are often asked what the differences are in justification today compared to previous times and conflicts, such as World War 2, Malaya and Korea, let alone World War 1. Here are a few. National standards of social care and responsibility have dramatically developed since those times; we must remember that. We had conscript forces, so the whole nation was involved in everything. The whole nation is not as involved as it should be now. Families are the support that enables people to volunteer to serve; do not let us forget that they are heroes too, remaining quietly at home and suffering often in silence. Regiments are becoming more stationary, so people live more in the community and rely less on service providers and get their medical, spiritual and

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shopping needs from outside. Therefore they become more independent and less in communication. They will form circles of friends outside. Everything that they do will make them a little more remote, and the day they leave we will have trouble following them. When the serviceperson leaves it will only exacerbate the situation.

Today, we have small, professional Armed Forces and must treat them in a thoroughly professional and responsible way. Let us look briefly at the situation on the ground. The other day, newspapers showed that questionnaires were being offered to those close to bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why only those? That is not as revolutionary as you might think; we gave questionnaires to several thousand people who left the Royal Irish in the last year. They were evaluated, and we can now target those who may need assistance. Where is that for the rest of the Army and the forces?

A few days ago, an article in the Daily Mail started off by talking about the private suffering and anguish of families, saying that 32 per cent of families had noticed a negative change in family members coming back. That is only the start. I do not want to be depressing, but the real symptoms of stress other than the immediate ones appear seven to 12 years down the line. Units, regimental associations and other groups cannot cope in the longer term, especially after personnel have left the service. Apart from anything else, most people are not members of the associations. Many ex-soldiers are too proud to come forward for help through traditional lines, and our aftercare service is an outreach service with visits. One of its performance indicators is that it visits every family bereaved since 1970 two or three times a year. That does not happen in the remainder of the UK.

In the modern day, we need to establish a service that supplies support to the client base—people as they come into the services, while they serve, while they are leaving, and in their future life. That should be a seamless journey, not one punctuated by moving from one isolated silo to another with little or no communication in between. It must be a joined-up, holistic process and not be approached piecemeal. In Northern Ireland, the establishment of the aftercare service was only as a result of extreme pressure on the Government. Estimations of need for such a service must be made, and funds must be properly given. Therefore, it is up to us in Parliament as a whole to insist on and demand a comprehensive service and support for our service personnel and their families in future, or we will not have a service or a foreign policy.

9.54 pm

Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, I begin by welcoming the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, to her new ministerial office. She hails, as I do, from the north-west. I think that I am right in saying that Bolton, from where she hails originally, is twinned with Le Mans. Perhaps it is fitting that she takes over the driving seat from the noble Lord, Lord Drayson. I have to say that the handover was speedy and somewhat unexpected. Indeed, there may be a stewards’ inquiry, but we on these

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Benches wish the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, well in his motor racing career—or whatever career he wishes to pursue in the future. He was generous to me in my early days in this role.

This is my first wind-up speech in a Queen’s Speech debate, but 26 years ago, thanks to the invitation from the then Patronage Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, I was honoured to second the Queen’s Speech in the other place—which is a great privilege for a young Back-Bencher. I suspect that it is unlikely that the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, will follow me in my political journey, although I notice that he has a tendency to sit very close to these Benches.

Today, our world is neither equal nor safe. My noble friend Lord Wallace talked of these Benches being instinctively internationalist. I am proud that three of my noble friends, Lady Northover and Lords Avebury and Jones, raised humanitarian issues of poverty, AIDS and water in Africa. They were joined in that by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Crisp.

Last week, we observed the excesses of an opulent entourage. I contrast that with the alleyways of Gaza and the miserable and impoverished lives of many Palestinians there. Their conditions were referred to earlier by my noble friend Lady Williams, the noble Baronesses, Lady Ramsey and Lady Symons, and of course the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. Let us hope that real progress is made at Annapolis. Failure to find a permanent peaceful solution in the Middle East lies at the heart of much mistrust, bitterness and terrorism that we experience today.

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