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Yesterday’s policy Statement about Afghanistan and Pakistan was interesting. There was some recognition that the operation is not purely military, but we are not pulling all the levers of the state’s power, both hard and soft, in unison. Apart from the Prime Minister himself, there is no single Minister who can wield that power. The power is diluted and divided and no one controls the money. The Statement said that the number of civilian experts in Afghanistan was to be doubled. Will the Minister say what the new total will be? That is the only question that I am going to ask.

Many noble Lords have queried whether our Armed Forces are properly equipped. In effect, have we got our threat assessment wrong and, from that, our capability management? I am not sure that we have got it that wrong. The problem lies with the strategic decisions that we have made: first, operating at double medium- scale plus when only resourced for one medium-scale operation and one small operation; and, secondly, the way in which we are prosecuting the campaign in Afghanistan. On that, I will be building on the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. As for Iraq, I look forward to the conclusions of the inquiry into that campaign, which will start at some point.

Despite the Government’s protestations, our operations on the ground in Afghanistan are primarily military in nature. Moreover, there is insufficient density of military and security staff in the difficult provinces. ISAF does not compare well to IFOR in that respect. Another difficulty is that many of ISAF’s troops are located in the quiet areas and operate under significant national caveats. This also gives weight to a Taliban argument that ISAF is merely a western force of occupation.

As many noble Lords have observed, members of our Armed Forces have been prosecuting the campaign in Afghanistan with vigour and courage. They are in contact with the Taliban on a daily basis. Inevitably there can be loss of civilian life and damage to civilian infrastructure but, unlike with the Americans, reconstruction for us does not start the next day. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, explained some of these difficulties with far more authenticity and credibility than I can manage. But often the area of operations is too dangerous for conventional NGOs, and DfID does not do danger, as it appears to see itself as not having a tactical role. Thus, we can have only military and not civil effect. I am not sure how we are going to change an adverse civil culture by purely military means.



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Yesterday, the Government released their policy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The policy observed that most Afghans do not support the Taliban but are waiting to see who predominates. Nevertheless, they also have a cultural position. The policy paper alluded to a decisive blow against the Taliban. I think that that is illusory and there will not be one. We need to drive a wedge between the reconcilable and the irreconcilable Taliban, which has been the policy for some time. Effective reconstruction and its delivery are crucial to this, but we must also recognise and understand the cultural issues.

For instance, one of our objectives in Afghanistan is to empower women, which is an absolutely proper and desirable objective. But how does that fit in with the Afghan culture and do we understand it? Out of 8,000 12 year-old English girls, one will die from childbearing-related complications. We could do better because the figure in Sweden is one in 17,000. However, in developing countries the ratio is one in 450 and in Afghanistan it is one in nine. I repeat: one in nine Afghan women will die as the result of childbearing problems. On top of that, two in every 10 Afghan babies die before their fifth birthday. The figures are horrendous and hard to comprehend; indeed, only two other countries in the world have a worse record. However, it is not just poverty. As many noble Lords know, Afghanistan has very few proper midwives or decent facilities, but we know too that the culture is very complex and we do not fully understand it.

When our troops deploy to theatre, they undertake pre-deployment training and study the culture, but only enough for a six-month tour. Apparently, Afghan men are very poor at permitting and facilitating medical intervention into their wives’ pregnancies or deliveries and they would certainly never allow a male doctor to attend. They will not relent even if their wives suffer diabolical pain or injury, or even if she bleeds to death over two days. It is very hard for us to understand why they allow such suffering, but I am afraid that it is in their culture. If we are honest, until recently the UK was a bit homophobic, but the Government changed our culture by a number of means. They did it slowly, but we have changed.

When I came back from Afghanistan two years ago, having been there with the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, I came to the view that we need either a hardened and well financed NGO or something much more akin to the old ODA of the early 1990s. It could come under either the MoD or the FCO, but in both cases it would work closely with our military at the tactical level. It would have integrated communications and individuals would be trained to have good operational skills. They would need to be able to marshal a military helicopter to an emergency landing site. But what is most important is that they would have to be prepared to accept enhanced risk and deal with danger. There is no point in taking a steady stream of military casualties and not achieving our desired end state, or to do it so slowly that it does not matter. The mission would be to provide civil effect in order to encourage local Afghans to reject the Taliban and move towards a more prosperous and healthy Afghanistan. I do not think that this is a

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role for the Territorial Army, but if we continue to prosecute the campaign as a purely military one, we are unlikely to achieve the desired end state.

2.04 pm

Baroness Emerton: My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, for securing this important debate and I also thank my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham and other noble Lords who have raised the importance of the care and aftercare of service personnel. I declare an interest in that I am a non-executive director of the Order of St John and the British Red Cross Defence Medical Welfare Service. The contribution of the Defence Medical Welfare Service is not well known. Its welfare officers go about their work in a quiet and effective way in hospitals in the United Kingdom, Germany and Cyprus and on deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, we believe that it is far more important that the people who need and use the service, members of the Armed Forces and their dependent relatives, know exactly what DMWS provides. Feedback from them and the commanding officers of those hospitals is overwhelmingly positive.

The Defence Medical Welfare Service is a charity contracted and funded by the MoD to provide a medical welfare service to hospitalised personnel and their dependent relatives. The service is held to account by the MoD at quarterly review meetings. We are the only civilian charity that serves on the front line and is accountable to military command while on deployment attached to field hospitals. Before deployment, all welfare officers undergo specialist training and, immediately prior to leaving, join the hospital medical team with which they will be working for last-minute training. While on deployment, they wear a functional uniform that differentiates them from the military and a name badge carrying the logo of St John and the British Red Cross.

The money invested by the MoD into DMWS is used in as cost-effective a way as possible and is subject to regular monitoring by the board, the management team and, of course, the MoD. A rigorous performance management framework enables anyone from the board to the welfare officers to see at a glance what activity has taken place in the units. However, what is not seen in those reports, but is seen only in the letters of thanks and appreciation, is how the welfare officers rise on every occasion to meet needs on an individual basis with professionalism, compassion and respect to assist those at a most vulnerable time in their lives. Personnel from other than UK units who are treated by the hospital team are also recipients of DMWS; in fact a letter recently arrived from the head of the army in the Netherlands praising the way in which Dutch personnel had been so well cared for by DMWS welfare officers.

Much has been discussed over the last 18 months on the subject of the broader provision of welfare to the Armed Forces—not only the military but also other organisations. However, the service that DMWS provides is different in that it is purely a hospital-based medical welfare service. What do we mean by this? All

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welfare officers hold a qualification in health and/or welfare, including counselling skills and first aid as basic requirements, as well as being given the opportunity for continuing professional development. They are fully equipped to meet the immediate needs of the sick and injured by providing the basic necessities of clothes and toiletries as well as comforts for those requiring longer stays in the form of CDs and DVDs. They also provide intensive support for the families of the injured.

Perhaps the most important part is the listening ear for hospitalised personnel, enabling them to talk in absolute confidence away from but respecting the chain of command. They often want to share their personal worries, anxieties and fears, as well as grief if perhaps they have lost a great chum. There is also an opportunity to pick up on the early signs of mental health conditions, particularly those that lead to PTSD. This can lead to early referral and prophylactic treatment. This listening ear is also available to medical support teams, most often after a very heavy day of casualties and deaths, providing a private space for reflection and the ability to unwind from the stress of the day.

This organisation, consisting of a total of 50 staff, provides a small part of the total welfare commitment to service personnel, but we believe that the delivery of medical welfare plays a very important part in providing a professional and compassionate service at times of greatest need and, in so doing, contributes to the well-being of individual service personnel, enabling them to move towards a full recovery and, where possible, to return to service duties.

I hope that the Minister, in her winding-up, will be able to give me some information as to when the commitments in the Command Paper published last July will be enacted.

2.10 pm

Lord Lyell: My Lords, I would like to breach the conventions of your Lordships’ House by thanking my noble friend Lord King, who I am afraid is not in his place; perhaps he heard that I was going to speak. I and your Lordships owe him a colossal debt for giving us the opportunity to have a debate on the Armed Forces today, when we have heard so much in your Lordships’ House and elsewhere this week about the huge spread of activities and duties of our enormously brave, successful and unique Armed Forces all over the world.

I shall be impudent again. It is 66 years and three days since I lost my father. He was classified as a noble and gallant Lord—if your Lordships’ want to find out why, they should go to the end of the Royal Gallery— although he did not achieve high office. From the age of four I was imbued with something like military duty, if not quite that. I am old enough to be one of, I think, four speakers in the debate today who are conscripts. There may be more and certainly others may have started as conscripts and then continued to distinguished regular professional careers. As far as I am aware, four of your Lordships who have spoken in this debate have served full-time as professional soldiers or perhaps sailors, so here we can see an enormous spread of the Armed Forces’ military duties.



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I served two years in my father’s regiment. Being, as Hilaire Belloc put it, somewhat short of sight, and what is called vertically challenged, my commanding officer decided that it might be better if I were not on the Queen’s Birthday Parade on 13 July 1958. Instead, I was sent to the small arms school for weapons training in infantry weapons at Hythe. Being somewhat short of sight, I borrowed the glasses of a kind Welsh Guards colleague and stunned the staff by achieving 94 out of 100. It may considerably shake up some of my colleagues, not least the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, to know that we were the first course to use the new self-loading rifle—the .300 SLR. I thought this was a Mercedes sports racing car but was told that it was not. That was 51 years ago today. There was I, a young second lieutenant, taking that two-month course in weapons training.

On 14 July 1958 the grins were wiped off our faces. At Windsor, 1 Battalion Scots Guards were dressed in public service tunics and bearskins and marching with pipers to Windsor Castle perhaps every 48 hours. We were warned for duty in—guess where—Iraq. I was allowed by the late father of my noble friend Lord Cathcart to be in charge of the entire weapons training for my battalion. As a 19-year-old, that really shook me but I realised I had to do a professional job. There is one thing that I ask—please—the Minister to do. She knows that I have the good luck to be secretary of the House of Lords defence group. Alas the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, is not in her place, but one of my colleagues—I will not say where or who—made a reference and comparison involving her as chairman of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body, Attila the Hun and a pussycat. I will leave your Lordships to draw the necessary conclusion. She is simply a wonderful chairman of our group, we are grateful to have her and she leads me and other noble Lords to learn, visit, see and discover all aspects that concern servicemen and servicewomen.

I will lightly and quietly breach one more convention of your Lordships’ House. Among the speakers who alas are not in their places is a young colleague in my regiment, the noble Earl, Lord Stair. I am thinking of 13 June 1982, when he led his platoon from 2 Battalion Scots Guards at Mount Tumbledown in the Falkland Islands against the fifth battalion of the Argentine marines. He and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, might well be the only two Members speaking in the debate—there might be more— who have faced enemy action and hostile fire; we are lucky to have them. It is with that in mind that I hope the Minister will be able to reassure me today or later that the standard of training that the noble Earl, the noble Lord, Lord Burnett, others and I received will continue.

I see that I have about one minute left. Your Lordships have been kind enough to refer—I would like to join in the tributes—to my noble friend Lady Park, who has been an enormous help to me. I served in Northern Ireland for five and a half years—six summers, I will call it—and my boss was the then Secretary of State, the institutor of today’s debate, my noble friend Lord King. One evening in August 1987 he had been staying with me. He moved to Tullybeagles in Perthshire where he was called from his bed at four o’clock in the morning because he had to fly across to Belfast and on

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to the hideous attack at Ballygawly. I cannot remember how many light infantrymen lost their lives. In April 1988 my noble friend had to fly once again to Belfast following the appalling murder of two corporals who were trapped in west Belfast. I happened to be 500 yards away—little further than we are from the other place. There was a helicopter flying above my head; I happened to be the duty Minister but that was nothing to do with me. I was pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, referred to what he had seen at Omagh. The fighting that our wonderful servicepeople carry out in Afghanistan or in areas of conflict is no less important and no less vicious than what he saw in Omagh and what my noble friend Lord King and I saw and appreciated on other occasions in Northern Ireland.

I conclude by thanking my noble friend Lord King for giving us the opportunity to speak today and praise each and every member of our Armed Forces. I apologise for taking a slightly personal view but I am a mere second lieutenant among noble and gallant Lords, including marshals of the Royal Air Force, and others who have spoken. It is crucial that even a mere timid, vertically challenged platoon commander of the Scots Guards should also be heard.

2.19 pm

Lord Selsdon: My Lords, events in life can give rise to great emotions, and this is one of those days. As I stood with my wife this morning watching the services in Basra I felt that welling-up of sadness that almost leads to a tear in the eye. That, like the “Last Post”, is a sad moment. Then there is another welling-up, which is when the pride takes over. As I look around at this country I see that there is a reason for great pride in our Armed Forces. They are probably the most respected institution that we have in the world at this moment—they are respected worldwide. It is sad that the Bank of England has gone downhill and that Parliament and the Government are no longer respected. But pound for pound, dollar for dollar, euro for euro, those men and women and what they represent are worth more than any others in the world. What they do today is often a result of history. What they have done has sometimes been due to the mistakes of others but very seldom has it been due to their own mistakes.

One has to think now about the future. Over the past few weeks I have been writing a Green Paper. I like those sorts of things; you take useless information, put it all together and draw conclusions that you know no one else would ever accept. So I began with Her Majesty the Queen and her Crown dependencies, overseas territories and realms—three countries, 12 countries, 15 countries. Then I took the Commonwealth, 65 countries that are British-related and, to some extent, interrelated. You might say, “Well, what about these countries?”. But you do not look at their population; you look at their coastlines, 44,000 kilometres of them—our territories. That is a little more, by a few hundred kilometres, than the territory of the Soviet Union, and twice that of the United States.

You then say, “Let’s look at the oceans of the world and these coastlines and what they represent”. The coastline around the Pacific measures 136,000 kilometres;

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around the Indian Ocean, 111,000 kilometres; and around the Mediterranean, 87,000 kilometres. You say, “What does that all mean?”. You go back into your history and say, “Why on earth did we go out into the world?”. We have never been an exporting nation; we have always been an importing nation. The role of the Navy has been to protect our lives by protecting our imports. Thus, the future of our island, which was once known by the ancients as “Windmill Hill” because we worshipped the wind, is to go out and invest, develop and bring back some of the benefits from around the world.

Looking at the food crisis and at the dependent territories and others, you realise that almost all those who are in trouble had investment in development that took place because of what they had to offer and the added value that could be created. So I thought that we must look not only at the added value on the land but at the added value in the sea and what lies under it. I thought that for these territories the Government should immediately declare 500-mile limits over the oceans, or at least a limit of half the distance between the island and the next mainland, that we should then protect. The problem for the world and the defence of world peace does not necessarily lie inland; it depends upon access by sea. Inevitably, having served in the Royal Navy, I would expect this to be the Navy’s prime role. Can we defend the sea routes? Can we, effectively, have access? Access for defence or peacekeeping purposes is difficult on lands that are not linked to the coast.

Of course we need the new carriers. We need other resources too, but some of them are relatively simple. Having had to serve in patrols in Cyprus where you were in inshore or coastal minesweepers that made you sick, you suddenly realise that for patrol boats in some of these territories you do not need anything much bigger than a large motor gunboat with a 40-millimetre Bofors and what they now call a chain gun.

I was thinking of how we could defend these territories. Your Lordships will remember that there are now 45 claims to the Antarctic, because of the natural resources that are underneath it. When the Russians go and stick a flag somewhere, that is them laying a claim. We should give consideration to the resources of the sea. If I were like the noble Lord, Lord Sterling, with his ships and his lateral-thinking mind, I would say, “Maybe, if we take these territorial rights, we can sell certain oil rights and other rights, which could raise significant funds that could finance further developments”.

These are just slightly lateral thoughts, but if we are to have a future as a nation, it will be trade-related. We have an enormous manufacturing balance-of-payments deficit, but we have a great opportunity at the moment. The biggest single growth area of GDP, surprisingly enough, is the health service. The public sector is what it is all about today, and that is wrong. If unemployment is rising and we need to stimulate demand, let us not give people £2,000 to scrap an old car; let us spend a bit more of the reserves on creating forces. Let us not just train university students in boats on the Thames; let us put them together and send them out in gunboats. After all, I went to sea as an officer in the Navy after only 90 days’ basic training, which I think was due to a technological error.



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I have great respect for many people who have taken part in this stimulating debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Park, who is sitting there as the leading member of the household cavalry in your Lordships’ House at the moment, creates emotions in me: sadness because she was not here for a while, but great pride that she is here now.

There is much that we can learn from history. I have already been forced to learn it. When you are in trade, you sit below the salt; you go to the more difficult countries and deal with the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean—all parts of the world that no one wants to go to because they are hot and dusty. Then, suddenly, you find that that is where the conflict is. The conflict is not in the Channel or in the western approaches; there are both conflicts and opportunities throughout the world, and we, the United Kingdom, have the greatest opportunity that we have had in my lifetime.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, with the leave of the House, if I may interrupt the debate, it may be for the benefit of the House for me to inform noble Lords that, as the House has had the opportunity to debate the update on Gurkhas during Questions, the usual channels have now agreed not to repeat the Statement on Gurkhas in this House. Therefore, my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown will repeat the Statement on Sri Lanka at the conclusion of this debate.

2.26 pm

Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord King, on securing this debate. Listening to today’s debate and reading carefully the Hansard of the debate on defence procurement that was held in the other place about 10 days ago, I acknowledge and appreciate the growing consensus across political parties on the whole question of defence. There is an increasing consensus that our force is severely overstretched; that there is a near impossibility, or a considerable unlikelihood, of us going to war alone in the future; that we are more likely to be part of a coalition, part of a UN force or part of peacekeeping operations; that our economic situation at present puts us under severe pressure; that we need—virtually all noble Lords who have spoken have referred to this—a major strategic defence review; and that we must match our commitments to our resources.

Where I slightly question what the noble Lord, Lord King, and some of my noble colleagues have been saying, however, is on the issue of whether we are prepared as a country to provide the resources for Britain to remain as a first-division power, or whether we have to accept the reality of our economic circumstances and accept that we are likely to be a very superior second-division power. On the one hand, we have at present what I would describe as first-division weaponry and equipment. We have Trident and the Typhoon, while soon we will have the Astute submarines. Two supercarriers have been ordered, and we have the outstanding Type 45 Daring class destroyers. That is first-class equipment. On the other hand, though, we have a shortage of troops, of helicopters—as my noble friend Lord Burnett referred to—and strategic lift capability, as well as a shortage of escort vessels, which the noble Lord, Lord Sterling, referred to.



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