Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page



2.06 pm

Moved by Lord Addington

Lord Addington: My Lords, when I put down my name for this debate and was lucky enough to be drawn in the ballot, I did so in the almost certain knowledge that I would learn far more from it than any knowledge I would give to others. When I saw the list of speakers, I thought that that impression would be confirmed. I am looking at this from the outside in, and there are those with far greater knowledge of the subject.

My initial approach comes as somebody who regards NATO as something of a fixed term in their childhood. I was brought up in a world in which we were divided into two camps. There was our side, NATO, and there was the Warsaw Pact. We stared at each other across Europe with troops facing each other to fight in northern Germany and nuclear weapons in the background. Effectively, we lived quite happily, looking back at it, with a nuclear Armageddon waiting in the background. I say that because we went to school, we went to work, we listened out for the results of football matches with the knowledge that everything could end tomorrow. Indeed, part of the education process and the entertainment industry was telling us that it could all end tomorrow.

It has changed considerably since then. If we have won, someone must have lost; and that would seem to be Russia. The first point of this debate is our relationship with the successor to the Soviet Union, the controlling interest, if you like, in the Warsaw Pact. We must try to get an idea of how it must perceive the world now. If we do not, we cannot start to make a sensible contribution to the debate.

I had a quick look at a map and realised that the Russian Federation, the successor state to the Soviet Union, finds itself surrounded by enemies which are a lot closer to Moscow than they were. The entire western flank is closer to home, and seems to be turned, if you take into account the Baltic states. To the south, there is a series of what someone called the stans, those unstable states which Russia itself acquired only in the mid-19th century, which now seem to be a breeding ground for the more aggressive forms of Islam and

10 Feb 2011 : Column 395

which seem more anti-Russia than anything that Russia ever dreamed of from the West. That is a very unstable place.

One of the first things that NATO must address is how we handle the new reality with Russia-how we try to convince Russia that we are not out to encircle and attack it. In the past few years, we have had some worrying rhetoric from both sides. Indeed, both sides seem rather to have revelled in going back to Cold War rhetoric. The classic example is probably the Russian intervention in Georgia, when Russia felt that its interests were deeply threatened by a bellicose Georgian regime. I do not think that that action was right, but, from Russia's point of view, it might be understandable. There was also the very worrying period when missile defence was first proposed and the Putin regime seemed to think that it was a direct attack on that regime, whereas we were worried predominantly about missiles from Iran. Both situations seem to have calmed down now and stability has been restored. However, normalising the situation is one of NATO's biggest challenges. But it is not simply a matter of maintaining weapons and guaranteeing the survival of the surrounding states.

My last thought on this subject is that Poland-a former member of the Warsaw Pact, that great bulwark of Russian-led power-is now a member of NATO. The situation has changed dramatically in less than two decades and it is not surprising that a little paranoia remains. Poland became a NATO member in 1999, a comparatively short time ago. We need to have a little understanding of what is going on there.

As part of this process NATO has moved from a position in which it waited to be attacked to one in which it has become a more proactive-interventionist, if you like-force. Most of the articles on Afghanistan that I read in preparing for this debate, looking to plunder the ideas of others on the way forward, suggest that if we were to do it again, we would not do it again in the same way. If NATO is to intervene in other states-and some would argue that it had a better result in the western Balkans-how should we structure it so that we can guarantee it is not thought to be overly aggressive, overly manipulative and interfering, not just in Russia but also in other states around the world? Can this body of which we are a member be a force for stability and good, as we see it, at the same time as it intervenes to impose our values, which some think are not required? The diplomatic framework to resolve the question does not yet seem to exist.

If we are to belong to NATO we must work with the primary and dominant partner, the United States of America. The United States was perhaps the winner at the end of the Cold War, and it was the originator of NATO-an institution which is now more than 60 years old. How does the United States perceive NATO as part of its world policy? Indeed, should it see NATO as part of its world policy? The way in which the other European NATO member states and institutions present themselves to the rest of the world also is a very big question.

There is one model which is not totally dependent on America, regarding it as simply a partner rather than as the dominant partner, and it might provide a way forward-the Anglo-French agreement. The general

10 Feb 2011 : Column 396

consensus, or at least the consensus that I have heard, is that these two nations are of a very similar size and power, with similar traditions, interests and histories of world involvement. These two nations have come together to create a force that, with NATO guidance, can be projected into the world outside. We should remember that this combination of 28 states acting together has considerable force. If these two nations are going to take on this role on their own behalf or in conjunction with other forces, as they are both members of the European Union, although the diplomatic direct link of ASEAN is almost impossible because of the slight difference in membership, the fact that they are the two dominant members of NATO and important members of the EU links them whether we like it or not. Whether we decide that they should be formally linked or not, there is a linkage. To deny it is to defy the logic of the situation. The briefing provided stated that if you want to annoy the Eurosceptics, raise the issue of whether that linkage should be formalised, but the fact of the matter is that it is there. NATO and the EU have very similar memberships although they are not identical.

How do these organisations interact with the rest of the world? How can they expand? Is the United States always going to be required to back them up and to provide ground support for the heavy lifting? Is the United States always going to be seen as having an interest in the defence of Europe? I do not think it will because it is understandably looking towards its Pacific coast and its Pacific boundary. Russia has the rising superpower, China, on its southern and south-east borders, and America has it on its south-west border. That will take America's attention away from Europe. We have to recognise this reality in the structure of NATO and in the command structures within Europe.

I have made notes about the restructuring of the command structure of NATO-I do not know why I bother making notes if I do not refer to them. There are 11 fixed military headquarters and 14 agencies with overlapping responsibilities manned by 13,000 military officers with 300 international committees. A restructuring is going on, but those figures show that it is slightly overdue. Surely there can be a restructuring that will enable us to have a more flexible organisation that will reflect the changes in the membership and in the realities on the ground. This must happen if this organisation is to remain relevant. We cannot always expect America to be there with us on all occasions, even if it should be consulted and be part of the decision-making process. We have got to become more flexible. Europe has got to look after itself. We have to establish better relationships with the great power to the East, Russia. It is no longer a superpower, but it is a great power. We have got to restructure the way things are organised. If we do, NATO has a future. However, if it sits back and quietly blunders around, it does not have as useful a future. The figures I gave about structure and organisation suggest that a body that is more than 60 years old will take time to die. At the moment, it is a prestige institution for the new member states that have joined it. It will not carry on that way for ever, particularly if diplomatic relationships on a state-to-state basis with Russia improve.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 397

I have the following questions for the Government. Where do we think NATO is going? Could the Anglo-French model be replicated among other states in Europe? Should we be bringing other states into that relationship? Should we be bearing more of the load ourselves? These are very big questions. I hope I will hear answers which address them in ways I have not thought of. I beg to move.

2.19 pm

Lord Browne of Ladyton: My Lords, I congratulate warmly the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on securing this timely debate on NATO. However, in my experience, almost any day of the past 10 years would have been appropriate for a debate on NATO and the changing world circumstances in which it operates. I do not think that the noble Lord had any need for the caveat at the beginning of his remarks suggesting that perhaps others in this House have more expertise than he does. He has laid before us a groaning table of opportunity for debate and discussion, and has raised the most important issues in relation to NATO in an appealing way.

It is well known that I came to defence and security with very little background in the subject. I still do not consider myself to be an expert. I believe that part of the frustration that many people feel about the direction of travel of our collective security is a consequence of the fact that not enough politicians are brave enough to stand in this complex environment to express their views if they do not believe that they have the background that qualifies them to do so. There has been collectively across Europe an absence of strong political leadership in security and collective defence for too long. I congratulate again the noble Lord on securing this debate because even in this Parliament we spend too little time discussing these important issues.

Before I make my discriminating choices from what the noble Lord has offered, I want to draw the attention of your Lordships' House to my entry in the Register of Members' Interests, particularly my membership of the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative, which has recently been formed by the Carnegie Institution, and my involvement with the recently incorporated European Leadership Network for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation. In addition, I should like to take the opportunity to express how much I am looking forward with keen anticipation to the maiden speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Flight, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup.

The noble Lord, Lord Flight, is a direct contemporary of mine in terms of membership of the other place. We went in together and left at the same time. On many occasions I have listened from the opposite Benches to his forceful arguments and sometimes his ability to handle issues of controversy with great courtesy. I know that he will be a valuable addition to your Lordships' House. I look forward to his contribution.

For two years, as Secretary of State for Defence, I benefited from the advice, strategic analysis, leadership and patience of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, as we served together in the particularly demanding environment of operations as we were

10 Feb 2011 : Column 398

withdrawing from Iraq and continuing to face the challenges of our engagement in Afghanistan. I do not think that I have ever shared with him the fact that I lived also with a constant reminder of him at home. On the occasions when we appeared together in public or in series in relation to issues, my wife constantly observed that he explained things far better than me. She said that he used a much more analytical fashion, was a much better public speaker than me and that it was time I took some lessons from him. I shall always be indebted to him for that service and I know that he will be a wise and knowledgeable contributor to the work of your Lordships' House.

I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that our security demands a strategic partnership in NATO, including the United States and Russia. Indeed, I would argue that for the continent we occupy, that strategic partnership needs to stretch beyond that alliance. As well as including Russia, it needs to include others which share this area with us. I agree with him wholeheartedly that that will not be possible unless we follow the advice of Robert Burns and to a large degree see ourselves as others see us. I spend a lot of my time travelling in Europe, particularly to its extremes, trying to understand countries' views of their security challenges and of the security blanket and comfort zone in which we live. He is right to suggest that we need to understand the way in which other people's minds work. Recently, I have been doing that intensively in Turkey. It is deeply instructive, even to someone who has done the jobs that I have done.

My most recent experience comes from listening to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak very wisely at the Munich Security Conference at the weekend. I am not sure that the noble Lord is right in his fear that the United States is turning its back on Europe, but he is right to suggest that the United States, for the very reasons that he articulates for other countries-that is, their geopolitical environment-is in a much more complex part of the world than us. However, for no reason other than the news this morning of the latest activity of pirates in the Indian Ocean, he and others should realise that we all live in the same world and that what is going on at the borders to which he referred, on the western side of the United States, influences us as well. My sense is that this Administration, those who are advising them, the United States high command and those in the analytical and security environment in Washington and across the United States know and understand this better than do we in this country and that they have no intention of turning their back on Europe. Indeed, their engagement with Europe is a function of our willingness to engage with them. My experience of NATO was that we sometimes sat back too much, waiting for the United States to give us the lead and tell us what we should think rather than our telling it what we wanted-to which it would be responsive.

At their April 2009 summit, NATO heads of state and Governments tasked Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the organisation's Secretary-General, to define the alliance's role and mission for the 21st century in a new strategic concept. In Lisbon, in response, he produced such a concept and the alliance approved it.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 399

However, as the Secretary-General and, indeed, your Lordships' House know, agreement on a form of words is not the same as securing NATO's real relevance to the security challenges that we face in the 21st century. To be a success in practice, the new concept needs to address challenges far different from those faced at the time of the alliance's formation, while protecting the founding ideas of collective defence, the transatlantic link and burden-sharing. Whatever frustrations we may have with this alliance, if we did not have it, we would have to invent it. It is crucial to our security, and we should not talk it out existence because of frustrations which we should try collectively to challenge.

The task which Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the summit have set the alliance is far from easy, but it is vital, and nowhere is it more needed than in the area of NATO nuclear policy. For months now-indeed, for about a year-a debate on the future of US theatre nuclear weapons stationed in Europe has been occurring around, but outside, formal NATO review processes. Stationed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey as part of the US nuclear umbrella which has extended over Europe, these weapons originally had a specific military purpose. With a short, "tactical" range and the majority unable to reach beyond mainland Europe, they were deployed to deter a physical invasion of western Europe by the then numerically superior conventional forces possessed by the Soviet Union at the time of the Cold War. Now, however, the weapons have declined to the point where I cannot find a military commander who says that they have any military utility. Moreover, the future costs associated with replacing the ageing aircraft that would deliver them are unlikely to be met by Europe's Governments, who are all in some financial difficulty.

More must be done to promote multilateral nuclear disarmament, and this is an opportunity to do that. Others in the alliance are worried that if one or two countries renounce nuclear weapons unilaterally, not only will the principle of nuclear burden-sharing between the US and Europe be compromised, but so too will the transatlantic link and the overall quality of collective defence commitments within NATO. This is an opportunity for NATO to do exactly what the noble Lord suggested: to have a debate among its members on the utility and purpose of nuclear weapons, and to come to a conclusion that will make a significant difference to the collective security not just of Europe but of the world, by contributing to disarmament and reducing the role of nuclear weapons in it.

2.30 pm

Lord Flight: My Lords, I begin by thanking the officers of the House for their great courtesy and assistance to new boys such as me. Secondly, I thank Members on all sides for their very warm welcome. It strikes me that this is indeed the better, more civilised House, where climbing the slippery pole is pleasantly behind us all. I am honoured to have friends on all sides of the House. This is one of the few places in our country where there is sensible respect for age, experience and knowledge, even though everyone looks incredibly young for their years. I am very honoured to be a Member of the House; it is a great institution.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 400

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Browne, for his kind comments and, with your Lordship's indulgence, will say a little about India today; I call it the second love of my life after my wife. In discussing defence, one needs to think out of the box. As India becomes a major power and economy in the world, I hope that it will become a key ally of this country, for reasons that I will speak about. India has 1 million well trained men at arms. In thinking about future defence needs, one should think about her role as she takes her place in the world. Surely there is at least a potential peacekeeping role that would be appropriate. I am naughtily using defence as an excuse to talk about India, but it is quite a big angle.

I was very pleased when the Prime Minister made his first visit to India. My associations with India go back to my days as a student, when I studied British India history and had the good fortune to work there in the second part of the 1970s. I made a group of friends who have remained close throughout my life and acted as guardian to some of their children when they came here to go to university. I am powerfully struck by the close affinity between our two countries; we are very much the eastern and western version of extraordinarily similar cultures. The previous debate, and that on the family last week, showed that India has a great deal to teach us. I also observe that through history, most British people who spent their careers in India grew to love the country and its people. Many noble Lords may have read the wonderful books by Dalrymple, particularly on the relationship between Britain and the Mughals in the 18th century. I asked Garter at my introduction ceremony where his magnificent new jacket had been made and was amused to be told that it was in India, and that it was significantly cheaper to have made there than in this country.

Some years ago, I was involved in establishing a medical facility in one of the major Indian slums. I observed, first, that inside what looked like a grim place were wonderful family units and little houses that were clean as a whistle. The upward mobility among that community was greater than I have witnessed anywhere in the world; it was a wonderful thing to experience.

On another occasion I took my daughter around Agra with a very nice young Indian as a guide. He asked me what I did and when I told him he said, "We have a democratic system over here in India. What system do you have in England?". It was evidence of the extent to which India has, above all, completely absorbed the concept of democracy. It has not been particularly well absorbed in many other parts of the world but Indians regard democracy as just as much their own as we regard it as our own.

There are very close economic factors. We have similar institutions of commerce and the same laws. There are very close cultural factors. As time goes by and India takes its place in the world as one of the main powers and economies, I look forward to closer relations between us and India. That would be natural and, I repeat, based on affinities that go back an extremely long way. Reverting to the start, it would be strange if that did not involve some military element.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 401

I crave your Lordships' indulgence for my straying slightly from the direct subject of NATO. I conclude with a point that I have not made yet. If we look at this country, my goodness, what a contribution the Indian community makes. It is the most successful community in this country. It is a very hard-working community with good family values. You have only to look around this House when it is fully attended to see, happily, that India is very well represented here. It has been of great advantage to this country and is one of the rather happier fruits of a relationship that goes back a very long way.

2.37 pm

Lord Bates: My Lords, it is a great honour to follow the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Flight. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Browne, I did not have the privilege of serving alongside him in the House of Commons. I departed the other place as he arrived and I arrived back at this place just as he departed. It is great to be in the Chamber with him. I have heard a great deal about his ability, winsome humour, sharp mind and intellect. He will bring those powers of debate to bear, I am sure, on many occasions. Although the noble Lord, Lord Flight, talked about India, he began his life as an Essex boy, of which he is very proud. He had a distinguished career in business, after studying at Magdalene College, Cambridge. He was then elected as a Member of Parliament for the outstandingly beautiful constituency of Arundel and South Downs in 1997. I have it on the surest authority-from a distinguished former constituent of the noble Lord, Lord Flight-that he was a most assiduous Member of Parliament. He was a very hard working and diligent constituency MP. I am sure that that tradition and experience is something that he will bring to this House and his duties here. I am sure I speak on behalf of all noble Members in saying that he is a great addition and we welcome him.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on securing this debate in the ballot. I also had a subject in the ballot but was not successful. However, I am delighted that this subject was. Like many Members, I tend to look at the subject that I had in the ballot, then at the guy who was fortunate enough to win, and think about whether I can squeeze my words by contortion into what I first wanted to say. I will perhaps test the House's patience on that in the last couple of minutes of my offering.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, introduced the subject of NATO so well, highlighting the key issues for consideration at present. The world has changed since 1949, when the NATO treaty was signed in Washington DC. The threat at that point was the Soviet Union, so NATO was formed.

I declare an interest: I have recently been appointed as a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. In fact, I am so new that I have not yet attended my first meeting; I do so in two weeks' time. I was pretty amazed to hear about the number of committees there-it is 300 or 400. A distinguished former Secretary-General, the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, who is in his place, says that that is perhaps not the case, and

10 Feb 2011 : Column 402

obviously I defer to his great expertise. But the assembly seems to be getting a very nice new building, smarter than what existed before, at the cost of €1 billion, I think, which seems to be quite a handsome addition for NATO in rather straitened times, particularly when we are finding things pretty tight in our defence budget here.

More important than that is to discover what NATO's role is in the modern era. When I was looking back, I thought, "It would be good to go back to see what the different articles said in the original treaty about its purpose". Two things were evident from the original text of the treaty, dated 4 April 1949. The first was this:

"The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments".

That is quite an interesting point. Sometimes we perhaps see NATO as a rival to some institutions, particularly the United Nations and its Security Council, which had been formed just three years before. The UN had its first meeting in Church House just across the way here; the first meeting of the General Assembly was in 1946 in Methodist Central Hall. We sometimes think that NATO is trying to dilute the authority of the UN, but the treaty itself is very clear that it saw the peace and prosperity of peoples and Governments as being vested in the United Nations charter. It specifically said that it did not want in any way to diminish the lead role of the Security Council and the General Assembly in pursuing their tasks.

NATO had a very strong political remit. Today we tend to think of NATO as a purely military body. It is a formidable military power because, in the classic term, it was created to keep the Americans in and the Russians out. There was another part to that phrase, but it is no longer needed. To an extent, it has done that; NATO has succeeded in keeping the United States engaged in Europe, and that has helped immensely to guarantee our security. Of course it has not quite kept the Russians down, because now they are partners. In fact, I shall see President Medvedev turning up in Lisbon for the discussions there on the future of NATO as a partner. To see Russian observers at all meetings of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly-they have a right to attend-shows that the world has changed for the better, and NATO has been a very successful part of that.

Where does NATO go from here? On that, some of the thinking that has gone into the coalition's strategic defence and security review can be helpful to us. The central argument in the helpful document that it produced, which is now our national security strategy, is that we need to move on from thinking that we can go around the world intervening-to move from intervention to prevention. There is a much greater emphasis on the prevention of conflict than on intervening in conflict. When you are a huge military power, there is the temptation that if you are a hammer you see every problem as a nail. Politics brings a subtlety to such matters. I am in politics because I abhor violence; I want peaceful solutions to all conflicts, peaceful transitions of power and the peaceful operation of societies.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 403

The political dimension needs to step to the fore and take on the role of prevention. Prevention is very clear in the new security and defence policy. It says that we will move resources-this is a radical concept-of nearly £300 million away from the Ministry of Defence and put it into a pot which is about conflict prevention and resolution. That is a phenomenal leap. It recognises, as the national security policy says, that we must get better. Its top aim is to tackle the root cause of instability. Rather than intervening afterwards, we should intervene before. That is the whole thrust of where the national security policy is going.

That is a perfect role for NATO. It can use the fact that it keeps the United States in. It is crucial, in my view, that Turkey is also a member. NATO somehow transcends the European Union and adds something different. It could have a unique role in pursuing initiatives for peace and reconciliation within the world, intervening politically and in humanitarian ways rather than in a military way, which is always more costly. That fact was stated by the Prime Minister on his visit to Afghanistan recently.

As I come to the last minute of my time, I will chance my arm by raising an issue that I chose for a balloted debate recently. It is linked to the United Nations. Next year, there will be a United Nations resolution that proposes an Olympic Truce for the period of the Olympic Games in London 2012-from seven days before until seven days after. It will be passed by the United Nations General Assembly and all 193 member states of the United Nations will sign up to it. It will declare that they will pursue initiatives for peace and reconciliation during the period of the Olympic Games in the spirit of the ancient Games.

The problem is that if it is like any other of the previous resolutions, it will be completely ignored. If we are to go back to the almost defining point of NATO, where we recognise that if we are to have peace, prosperity and security in this world it will be through a broad-based international order and the United Nations will be at its heart, surely it behoves us to take United Nations resolutions seriously. There is no better resolution in my view to start with than to declare a truce during the London 2012 Olympic Games.

2.47 pm

Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Addington on securing this debate and I congratulate my noble friend Lord Flight on his interesting military bridge-building between NATO and India in his fascinating and excellent maiden speech. We look forward to many contributions over the years.

Europe spends collectively €200 billion on defence. Few would argue that it gets value for money or bangs for bucks. Within that total, the United Kingdom and France are by far the largest contributors, with 50 per cent of the total spend and probably 65 per cent of the research spend. In today's debate, I intend to focus my remarks on the changing relations within NATO's membership, on Anglo-French military co-operation, particularly the defence and security co-operation treaties, and the way forward.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 404

I do not wish to dwell on the past: on French isolation under de Gaulle or the disappointing outcomes of the 1998 St Malo agreement. Today, we are in a whole new ballgame. President Sarkozy has brought France back within NATO's military structure and severe budgetary pressures in our two countries have made greater co-operation the obvious and inevitable way forward. We have seen a dramatic and genuine shift in French policy and our coalition Government have responded in an open and positive way. I freely acknowledge the efforts of the previous Government in building the foundations of this current new relationship. As Alain Juppé, the French Defence Secretary of State, said in the National Assembly late last year:

"The defence treaty signed with the United Kingdom introduces an unprecedented co-operation".

He went on:

"Our first objective is to develop co-operation between our armed forces in order to create a joint capability with a concrete road map".

Liam Fox, appearing before the Lords Foreign Affairs and Defence Sub-Committee last week, said that the personal chemistry was very good with Alain Juppé and acknowledged the focus as being on interoperability so that the UK and France could work together if necessary.

As we know, a number of specific areas of co-operation are being worked up. We have decided to install catapults and arresting gear to our future operational carrier. Thus UK and French aircraft can operate from both nations' carriers. The intention by the early 2020s is to have the ability to deploy the UK-French integrated carrier strike group. On the A400M transport, the plan is to develop common support for our future fleets of transport aircraft and agree a single contract with Airbus Military, to be signed by the end of 2011. On submarine technologies and systems, the aim is jointly to develop some of the equipment and technologies for the next generation of nuclear submarines. On maritime countermeasures, a common project team will be established this year to agree specifications for a prototype mine countermeasure system. Other areas include co-operation on nuclear stockpile testing, satellite communications and unmanned aerial systems.

Both UK and French politicians have made it abundantly clear that the Anglo-French co-operation involves no loss of sovereignty, both countries being free to deploy their own forces as each sees fit. I do not demur from that, but the creation of a combined joint expeditionary force suitable for a wide range of scenarios up to and including high-intensity operations points the way ahead. I welcome the joint exercises involving all three services planned for later this year.

David Cameron observed at the November 2010 summit that the only times when British forces had been deployed alone in the past 30 years were in Sierra Leone and in the Falklands. One can compare those two occasions with the number of times when we have fought alongside allies, from the first Gulf War through Bosnia and currently in Afghanistan. There are those, perhaps the majority, who support the Anglo-French defence treaty but would not wish it to go further and like our Defence Secretary regard any loss of national security as being totally unacceptable. However, others

10 Feb 2011 : Column 405

like myself are rather more pragmatic; we see it as a beginning rather than an end. Of course, trust will take time to develop, and we have to build a new entente brick by brick. Looking back, perhaps closer dialogue and co-operation with France might have caused us to be more circumspect about the invasion of Iraq and the way in which we launched into Afghanistan.

We all know how our two countries went their separate ways on defence, but if we stand back and look at it objectively, does it really make sense for us to have our respective, separate submarine-borne strategic nuclear deterrents at considerable cost prowling the world's oceans with no obvious targets or threats? Can we seriously imagine just one of us ever coming under nuclear attack and not the other? Surely our proximity would bring about mutual contamination in any case, let alone the risks of missile inaccuracy. With our conventional forces in time, I would like to see more integration and greater use of mutual training areas, our air fields and our ports.

Today we face a particular problem in this country. The loss of our Nimrod capability, which has been referred to in numerous recent defence debates and in Questions, leaves a gap that we cannot easily bridge. When my noble friend replies, will he say whether we have made any approaches to the French to help in this regard-for the use of their fairly substantial maritime patrol aircraft fleet?

In any discussion on Anglo-French co-operation, we clearly need to be cognisant of the reaction and possible concern of other NATO countries. Earlier this month our Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff, said that while the United States and France remain the "two key providers" of defence equipment to the UK, other allies, including Italy and Germany, could become crucial equipment partners, citing Italy's expertise in sensors for possible utilisation in the development of UK/French unmanned systems.

Finally, concerning the United States, clearly it remains our great superpower ally. However, as it increasingly looks to the east-to the Pacific rim, as my noble friend Lord Addington said earlier-it should surely welcome greater European co-operation and efficiency in defence, thus requiring a lesser call on itself.

2.55 pm

Lord Inge: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for achieving this debate. I also rather share with him the question: what is the threat? Let me tell your Lordships that I moved jobs in Germany as the wall came down. I went from being the corps commander to being the commander-in-chief. The first thing I did was to go and see the intelligence brigadier. I asked, "What is the threat?" He said, "Commander-in-chief, it's multidirectional and multifaceted, which means I haven't a clue where it's coming from".

In a funny sort of way, that emphasises to me that, because the UK would not be able to operate in some of the military situations that we face on our own, we need to be part of an alliance-and a key nation,

10 Feb 2011 : Column 406

because only one nation has a real military capability that it can sustain over a prolonged period. That is the United States, so its importance in any military relationship that we have is critical. Whether that should be NATO or another alliance, I do not know, but I cannot stress how strongly I believe in the critical importance of that.

NATO is, of course, now involved in Afghanistan. I had some reservations about going into Afghanistan, but the facts are there, and again only one nation can sustain the sort of military effort that is required: the United States. Unless some other form of that can be devised, that will remain hugely important. When you explain to people the difficulty of sustaining complex, dangerous military operations over a prolonged period and the assets needed to sustain them, only the United States and one or two European nations can provide those.

In Afghanistan, we are now facing NATO's greatest military challenge, operationally. I have been disappointed by the contribution made by some NATO nations to that campaign. I believe that this could, in time, lead to the US having doubts about the value of NATO. That would be a grave disadvantage to this country and to our security, not least because Europe, although it has some high-tech military capabilities, has a very limited ability to sustain the sort of prolonged military operations that I referred to earlier.

My immediate concern is Afghanistan, which is a major challenge. We have to ask ourselves whether we have the force levels right in Afghanistan at the moment. I am talking about us, not the Americans, and I know that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, will address that point later. Also, can we sustain that operation over a prolonged period? If Europe really is to have a credible military capability, it has to ask itself whether it is prepared to spend the money that it requires to provide it. At the moment, I see no sign of Europe being prepared to make that effort. Until that happens, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that NATO and the United States link remain critically important, both politically and militarily, for this country.

2.59 pm

Lord Stirrup: My Lords, it is with some reluctance that I speak today. On seeing that I was to follow the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, and after hearing the kind remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, that reluctance has grown to simply fearsome proportions. I am still new to your Lordships' House and very much in the process of learning the ropes. That has certainly been expedited and made much less difficult by all the support that I have received from the wonderful staff here-before my introduction, on the day itself and subsequently-and by the warm reception that I have had from your Lordships. I am most grateful for all this.

I had fully intended to take a little time to find my feet before getting up on them, but the noble Lord, Lord Addington, has introduced this important subject today. As I have spent the better part of the last five years on NATO's military committee and participated in the alliance's deliberations over that period, you will understand why I feel under some obligation to speak.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 407

This is an important debate because NATO is important. It is perhaps the most successful military alliance in history but, as we all know, it faces significant challenges today. The fundamental issue remains the same as that which confronted the alliance two decades ago after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union-can an organisation created to deal with a specific threat in a particular set of circumstances remain relevant let alone thrive when that threat and those circumstances have changed so dramatically? We now have the experience of the past 20 years to help answer that question. My involvement over the last five years has led me to a couple of key conclusions which I will lay before your Lordships this afternoon.

First is the basic question of what NATO is for. Is it essentially an alliance to defend against physical threats to the territorial integrity of its member nations? In other words, should NATO concern itself with Article 5 of the treaty and little else, or should it seek to deal with more complex security issues further afield, as it is doing today in Afghanistan? This has been the subject of considerable debate among the member nations, and their views on this point have varied considerably. For my part, the answer seems clear; it has to be yes to both propositions. I am in no doubt that Article 5 must remain the bedrock of the alliance. Without it, NATO would soon cease to exist. Even those who see no immediate or near-term physical threat to their territorial integrity-as some member nations do-cannot be sure that none will arise in the future.

On the other hand, if NATO is of little relevance to the current security concerns of its members, they will be tempted to neglect it in favour of arrangements that meet what they see as their most urgent and pressing needs. In these circumstances, there is a real risk that, should NATO at some stage in the future face a threat under the provisions of Article 5, it will no longer have a credible and coherent military capability with which to respond. NATO's continued vitality, and perhaps viability, depends on it providing at least some response to the problems with which its members are grappling today.

As we know, these problems are complex and often far removed from the alliance's boundaries. As this is a north Atlantic alliance, not just a European one, it must be relevant to the security concerns of the United States of America and Canada, and not just to those of Europe. This is not about trying to be all things to all men; it is simply the alliance having to do what so many of the individual nations within it, including the United Kingdom, are having to do-deal with the problems of today while guarding against and preparing for those that may arise tomorrow and the day after.

Secondly, on the effective functioning of NATO, the alliance works on the principle of political consensus-or, as some would have it, fails to work because of that principle. They have a point. Consensus was hard enough to achieve in an organisation of 16 nations facing a monolithic threat across the inner German border. With 28 nations seeking to deal with the kinds of complex security issues that I have suggested must be confronted, consensus might seem a vain hope, so some argue that we should abandon the

10 Feb 2011 : Column 408

principle. I understand their frustration, but seeking to abandon the need for consensus would threaten NATO's very existence, and in practical terms I see no realistic prospect of such a change being agreed. On the other hand, to subject every decision at whatever level to this requirement simply leads to deadlock and stagnation, so we need to be much more nuanced about what consensus actually means.

This may seem rather a technical point, but I have seen situations in which the ponderous decision-making process that results from the need for consensus at many levels has affected our military personnel deployed on operations. I am afraid that the tempo of bureaucracy in Brussels is ill matched to the tempo required by the people the alliance puts in harm's way. This has to change. NATO has made some progress in this regard, but it needs to do much more. Not all nations yet share that view, but many do. The urgency of operations in Afghanistan gives us both the spur and the leverage to make much needed progress.

I have touched on the key issues of purpose and effectiveness, but I started by saying that NATO is important. It is perhaps worth reflecting on why this is so. The United Kingdom long ago abandoned the concept of national defence in favour of collective security. Yes, we retained the capability to conduct certain limited operations on our own but, as is the case for all member nations, the physical security of these islands is underwritten by NATO. The renationalisation of defence within Europe seems to me an unattractive prospect in theory and probably unachievable in the light of financial reality, so we continue to need NATO, and therefore need to keep it fit for purpose. The corollary is that we must continue to invest in NATO to sustain both the alliance's capability and our influence within it. Yes, NATO must become more responsive and more efficient. Certainly, in these straitened times, the organisation should reduce its overheads and streamline its structure, but we should guard against unilateral decisions that reduce and undermine our national voice in this crucial arena. Therefore, I urge the Minister to ensure that our investment in NATO-of high-calibre people as well as money-remains commensurate with the importance of the alliance to the future security of this country and its people.

3.08 pm

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, in rising to make a short and modest contribution to this debate, I start by congratulating the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, on his maiden speech. The noble and gallant Lord comes to your Lordships' House after a most distinguished career first in the Royal Air Force and then as Chief of the Defence Staff. Being Chief of the Defence Staff in very difficult times, as he was, and keeping the admiration and respect of your Ministers on the one hand and all those under your command on the other, is a very difficult act. The noble and gallant Lord achieved that act with distinction. He therefore brings his experience and wisdom to your Lordships' House at a crucial time for our defence, and we are most grateful for that.

I cannot but remember that the very last time I had the honour of speaking immediately following a maiden speech, it was that of Lord Fieldhouse, who served in

10 Feb 2011 : Column 409

this House for such a, sadly, short time. He, too, was a very distinguished Chief of the Defence Staff. I see three more distinguished Chiefs of the Defence Staff in their places this afternoon. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, is the honourable heir of a proud and famous tradition, and he is most welcome. We look forward to his many future speeches with keen anticipation.

Perhaps I may touch on two points, one of which-the obligations of NATO as a whole-was touched upon by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup. He referred to Article 5 of the treaty, which states that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. When the first nine members of NATO joined together back in 1949, that was a straightforward and understandable part of the treaty. The threat was obvious then. Nowadays, it is rather less obvious.

What is the threat? What constitutes an attack these days? Is it a phalanx of tanks rolling across the border? Yes, I presume that that would be an attack. Is it a great fleet of bombers coming to drop their bombs? Yes, that would surely be an attack. Or, more likely, is it an intercontinental missile? I remember the intermediate-range intercontinental missiles-the SS20s, I think they were called-which in my time at the Ministry of Defence were installed and pointed straight at us along the eastern border of the NATO countries.

The important question that I wish to put to my noble friend is this: what undertaking was given to the new, more recent, adherents to the NATO treaty? The previous two were Albania and Croatia, which joined just a couple of years ago. Did we say to them that an attack on them would be the same as an attack on us, and that we would respond accordingly? I do not know what we said. If we did say that, we should have said it with some care. I hope that my noble friend can clarify that. Going back a few years to 2004, another seven countries became members of NATO-Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Were they, too, given an undertaking that an attack on them was the same as an attack on us? I dare say that they are wondering who will be a more likely aggressor in their part of the world.

I asked earlier about the most likely form of attack. A phalanx of tanks coming across the border would represent just that, no doubt. Nowadays, of course, other things might constitute an attack-for example, would a cyberattack represent an attack that we would have to respond to in accordance with Article 5 of the NATO treaty? Perhaps my noble friend can clarify that point. Not so long ago, one of the NATO countries had its gas supply turned off by a neighbour. Some might have said-indeed, that country might have said-that that constituted an attack.

We have to take care. We have to decide, first, whether these essential principles continue to apply today in every respect and, secondly, what the nature of the attack is. These are worrying times because of the enormous pressures that we are suffering, mostly of a financial nature. I hope that my noble friend can clarify some of the issues that I have drawn to your Lordships' attention.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 410

3.13 pm

Lord Alderdice: My Lords, like other noble Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Addington for securing this debate and for introducing it in such a thoughtful way. NATO has always been of interest to your Lordships' House, not least since three Secretaries-General of NATO have been Members of this House-most recently the noble Lord, Lord Robertson.

We have heard two distinguished maiden speeches, from the noble Lord, Lord Flight, and from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, both of whom talked about important areas outside NATO's territory; however, it seems to me that the challenges for NATO are fundamentally, not just a little, different from the purposes for which it was founded. First, at that time, it was clear who the enemy was. I remember, when the IRA had a ceasefire in Northern Ireland, one of the Northern Ireland politicians famously said that it was the most destabilising thing that had happened in his lifetime. In a sense, he was right, because when you know who the enemy is and where to point the guns, that is simple and straightforward. NATO's purpose was, as the noble Lord, Lord Bates, said, very clear: to keep our American colleagues with us in protecting us from the Soviet Union.

The situation is by no means so clear now, as has been said by other noble Lords. As the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has just said, it was clear then what an attack was and that it would be a relatively conventional attack; even a non-conventional attack was seen in terms of weapons of mass effect. However, what now constitutes an attack is far less clear. He mentioned one cyberattack-I declare an interest as president of ARTIS Europe, a research and risk analysis company that looks at some of these matters-but, of course, not only has a small country in the alliance, Estonia, had a denial-of-service attack, there are attacks every day on the United States Department of Defense, not to mention our own defence establishments. It is not as though there is a day on which an attack starts; they go on constantly and it is by no means easy to be clear about precisely where some of the attacks come from. It appears that the attack on Estonia came at some point from Russian territory but, because many of these areas are remote, one does not know exactly what that means.

The difficulty, too, has come from the very success of NATO. As NATO has become more successful, so its extent has grown. As a strong supporter of the European Union, I remember becoming increasingly concerned about whether it was possible to widen and deepen the European Union at the same time and at some speed. I expressed substantial doubt to my colleagues about whether that was possible, and I maintain that view. I think that the faster one extends, the more difficult it is to deepen, and so with NATO. It seems to me that the more we have extended, the less clear NATO's purpose has become. Where a defined territorial integrity might be under attack, it is clear what the purpose and role of NATO will be. Its very name- the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation-identifies its geographical extent. However, once one starts to look at substantially different territories, one encounters problems in two ways.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 411

The first of those problems is in being clear about where an attack response is justified. Here, we come to the question of Afghanistan and, in a sense, to the link between the two maiden speeches-one referring to Afghanistan and the other to India. If we find ourselves responding to an attack on our own geographical territory, we know what to do-we discuss it among ourselves, as we are all to some extent under attack. However, responding to an attack in Afghanistan is a different matter. When discussing Afghanistan a year or so ago with Indian military commanders, I was shocked and dismayed to learn that, despite their being an ally and having a million men under arms, and despite their historic relationship with Afghanistan, there had been little or no consultation with India in advance of any response in Afghanistan. Subsequently, when India offered assistance, there was remarkably little acceptance of that assistance. If we have to move outside the territorial integrity of our own area, we have to find a different way of operating with those whom we can regard as allies; otherwise, we will fall over ourselves, not knowing what we are dealing with and not having to hand all the allies who would be prepared to help us.

However, it then becomes difficult to hold the alliance together. Let us take as an example Turkey, which has been such a stout and important member of NATO. The situation in Turkey has changed because, as NATO has advanced and developed and other countries have wanted to be part of it, so Turkey has begun to change. When Turkey was a secular country with a very strong military command that had control of everything, it was easy to see how it might relate to us within NATO. However, things have changed. Turkey is now a more democratic country, but the democratic forces and the military establishment do not necessarily see things in quite the same way. The democratic establishment now wants to look to a more significant Turkish regional role, with different kinds of relationships within its own region and territory and different political attitudes compared to many of the leading countries and partners in NATO. It is not at all clear, particularly since the European Union has been unwise enough not to embrace Turkey more energetically, how that important component of the alliance will develop over the next number of years. That will have implications in the wider Middle East.

Like other noble Lords-it was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton I have seen senior officials in NATO developing strategy. At Lisbon, my very good friend the former Liberal Prime Minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, produced the new strategic document, Active Engagement,Modern Defence. From reading through that document, it seems to me that although useful thinking is taking place and the new threats and problems externally are being identified, such as the cyber threat, there is very little in the document about the stresses and strains within NATO itself and about its whole purpose.

In particular, a fundamental problem for a military alliance in dealing with the developing threats is this: a military operation, certainly an official one, is hierarchical in its structure and bureaucratic in its control relationship with politics and politicians and Governments, whereas many of the threats that we experience, whether they

10 Feb 2011 : Column 412

are terrorist threats or cyber threats from terrorists, hackers or even from other countries, operate in a network fashion and not in a hierarchical fashion. If we do not look to the very structures of the way our military and military alliances function, we will find that they are always trying to address what has happened in the recent past rather than what is happening and what we are facing currently. That is a very real dilemma for us.

It seems to me that NATO and its whole way of working must address these threats as they are, and that may require changes of structure and function. If NATO becomes a network, rather than a structured, hierarchical military alliance, that will have all sorts of implications for matters like the consensus of decision-making when it comes to action and whether that results in more operations by those who feel themselves most at threat. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, asked the question: when the new countries came in, did that really mean that all of us were prepared to go to war on any kind of attack? Whatever was said to those countries, I simply do not believe that that is actually the case. If we are not to be disingenuous, and then find ourselves in a huge dilemma when the matter arises, we must look at how we actually structure and function as an alliance.

3.23 pm

Lord Teverson: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Flight, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, on their excellent maiden speeches. I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Addington on securing this important debate. I was particularly pleased that he mentioned the Cold War. I suppose for many of my generation the period of their childhood through to middle age was dominated by that non-conflict. Today, I hear politicians say that we live in dangerous times and that we face some of the biggest and most dangerous challenges that there have been in the world for a long time, but I reject that. Are people's memories so short that we do not remember that we lived through several decades when we woke up in the morning and were not sure that the world would exist in four minutes' time, let alone by the time the sun rose again the next day? That has perhaps been the success of NATO, an organisation which I think, as many noble Lords have said, is vital to the western world and to the defence of this country, but one where the needs have now started to change.

I want to address two areas. One is EU-NATO relations and the other is the UK-French defence treaties. It is in the area of EU-NATO that some of the important challenges for NATO lie. Returning to the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, if NATO is to be relevant to some of its European nations, it is important that we resolve the EU-NATO relationship.

Of course, not everything there is negative, although there are many challenges. The European Union agreed its Petersberg tasks. Although that was not in agreement with NATO, it defined the two roles: the EU was to take charge of humanitarian issues, peacekeeping and, in some circumstances, peacemaking; but it was clear that territorial protection was for NATO.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 413

In 2003, we had the Berlin Plus agreement, where areas were agreed between NATO and the EU-where the EU could operate and under what conditions. One of those operations is still going on in Bosnia, Operation Althea, which works very well in information sharing and all the areas covered by the Berlin Plus agreement. As I hear so often, since I have the privilege to chair this House's EU Sub-Committee on foreign affairs and defence, there are a number of areas in which it does not work, which has specific important consequences.

One of those, although it has not been not fundamental, is where the EU has operated with India in Operation Atalanta, where there has been a great deal of co-operation between NATO fleets, the EU Operation Atalanta, the Indians, the Chinese and other maritime nations that have worked together in counterpiracy. During that operation, certainly in its early stages, there were significant limits on the information and intelligence that was swapped between those organisations. The outcome is that there was a less efficient use of important military assets, which are scarce when they are being used elsewhere in the world.

A recent inquiry into the European police operation in Afghanistan found that, again, we have a lack of formal agreement between NATO and the European Union. We heard evidence from Brussels that, in extremis, that would threaten the protection of EU citizens, including United Kingdom citizens, serving in that European police operation. That is unacceptable and needs to be solved. That has been going on for many years, and the difficulty, as we all know, concerns relations between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. Although the technical reason is the fact that Malta and Cyprus are not members of NATO, as EU members, that is used as a means by which not to reach agreement.

I strongly believe that the lack of agreement to work between those organisations has a negative effect externally, outside Europe and the North Atlantic, and stops what could be a very effective operation between them, particularly when there is a combination of state building-civilian operations for which the EU is strong and useful-and military applications, which should be fulfilled by NATO. Where are the Government in terms of this complex problem which still needs to be solved? A solution has taken some time. Should we start approaching this more robustly with our partners instead of maintaining the softly-softly approach which seems not to have worked? Of the 27 members of the European Union, 21 are members of NATO.

I have been privileged to be involved in the Anglo-French treaties from a parliamentary point of view. The French Government more or less insisted on a parliamentary dimension to these treaties so, from your Lordships' House, the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, and I have been involved in the process with Members from the other place, including the right honourable James Arbuthnot and other members of the Defence Committee there. I very much welcome these treaties, which France's return to the operational side of NATO makes possible. They also enable us to extend in very practical ways the co-operation and collective security that we have in NATO to that bilateral relationship.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 414

As my noble friend Lord Lee pointed out, France and the United Kingdom provide 50 per cent of total EU defence expenditure, slightly more than that in assets and, I think, up to 75 per cent of the total in terms of research. When the Secretary of State, Dr Liam Fox, came before our committee last week we were very concerned that the British Government perhaps wanted to make this agreement for financial reasons, and we wanted to know whether it would be sustainable. He convinced us that this treaty is intended for the long term and that it will be effective. The strategy of building confidence through a small number of measures-rather than through what the French ambassador described as "hyperbolic" means of co-operation-is exactly the right way to build that relationship. This year we will have Flanders II, Southern Mistral and a maritime operation as well. I congratulate the Government on that agreement. It is not a substitute for a European common security and defence policy, but it adds to it. I very much hope that it will be a stimulus to ensuring that other European nations pull their weight more than they do at present.

I was in Japan last year when there was an incident between a Chinese fishing vessel and the Japanese coast guard. It caused a furore, which I do not think we understand here, within the populace of both Japan and China. That was of course followed by the incident of North Korea shelling a South Korean island. In defence, the United States has inevitably turned its face towards the Pacific, where it sees an increased defence need. This trend has been short term but I believe that it will also be a longer-term one that we in Europe need to be aware of in keeping the United States involved here. Ironically, Russia too will have increasingly to look west, because in the east-in sparse and open Siberia, which, in the very long term, it will find difficult to defend-it will see other powers as a growing threat.

3.34 pm

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, this debate, coming as it does at a time when NATO is facing the greatest challenge to its future credibility and solidarity in Afghanistan, could not be more opportune. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, has therefore done us all a service in making this debate possible. It has also, of course, provided the occasion for two wonderfully eclectic and different maiden speeches. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Flight, who is looking for some co-operation between India and this country, that there is UN peacekeeping. The Indians are the biggest provider of UN peacekeepers. This country, alas, for reasons that do not need to be dwelt on at the moment, is about the smallest, but there is plenty of opportunity for co-operation there. I thought my noble and gallant friend Lord Stirrup did us a great service by taking us back to some really fundamental questions about what NATO is there for and what it should be doing.

I shall say a little bit about Afghanistan and then address two other important and often overlooked issues, the NATO/EU relationship, to which the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has just referred, and the alliance's nuclear posture and attitude towards the reduction or withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, to which the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, referred.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 415

NATO's major involvement in Afghanistan is sometimes criticised and sometimes regretted, even by those who now support it. I am not among their number. I really do not see how NATO could have refused to get involved after an attack from Afghan territory had led to the triggering of Article 5. The rather gratuitous initial cold-shouldering by the Bush Administration, in particular by the then US Secretary of Defense, of that act of solidarity was a major political error, but it was not a justification for turning our backs when the US asked for help. In any case, that is now all water under the bridge. We cannot go back to that earlier moment of choice. What is needed now is determination to stay the course and, at the same time, an imaginative strategy for bringing the need for an outside military intervention in Afghanistan to an end. I doubt whether setting artificial deadlines for initial reductions in troop presence, such as President Obama's summer 2011 undertaking or our end-2014 date for ending combat involvement, are at all wise or helpful if they are not in any way linked to conditions on the ground. They are far too likely to encourage the Taliban to sit it out and wait for us to go.

As for the strategy to end the need for NATO's combat presence in Afghanistan, which should be our objective, it surely needs a much stronger regional dimension in which we work for a commitment by Afghanistan and all its neighbours to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states in the region, to non-interference, to confidence-building measures and to a programme of economic co-operation. That strengthened regional approach requires, I would suggest, more than just occasional, informal meetings of the Governments of the region, which is what has taken place so far. It requires more than just warm words and short follow-up. It needs firm, binding long-term commitments of the sort the two sides in the Cold War in Europe endorsed at Helsinki in 1975, including commitments to respect each other's borders. That, of course, has to include the Durand line, the frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Secondly, in Afghanistan I would suggest that we need a more subtle approach to reconciling the Pashtun tribes with the central Government in Kabul, possibly revolving around some international, perhaps UN-hatted, go-between to shuttle between elements of these Pashtun tribes and President Karzai. I doubt very much whether direct contacts managed either by President Karzai or by the US or NATO military are the best way to set about achieving that reconciliation, and I would be grateful if the Minister would respond to these two points on Afghanistan.

The present state of NATO/EU co-operation, or rather the lack of it, to which the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, referred, is frankly pretty deplorable and it is damaging to both parties, as we have seen in the examples that he gave in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It leads to duplication, dangerous security gaps and to unnecessary misunderstandings. We all know why it has happened and who is responsible-Cyprus on the EU side and Turkey on the NATO side. Each has taken the organisation to which it belongs hostage and hostage-taking is a nasty habit.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 416

It was good that last November's NATO summit recognised that something needed to be done to remedy this state of affairs. If a definitive solution cannot be worked out by the time of NATO's spring ministerial meeting, which is now only a few weeks away, surely the Secretary-General of NATO and the EU's high representative have enough delegated authority to work out pragmatic arrangements for day-to-day co-operation in Brussels and wherever the two organisations are operating in the field to work together properly. Here, I very much echo what my noble and gallant friend said about finding ways to break out of the trap of consensus or at least to work a way around it in some limited manner.

Surely, the other members of the two organisations have enough influence with their partners who are preventing this to stop them meddling with or trying to block any pragmatic arrangements agreed between the Secretary-General and the high representatives. Perhaps the Minister could say what we are hoping to achieve in this matter in the next couple of months.

Thirdly, on the alliance's nuclear posture, I very much regret that the opportunity was missed at last November's NATO summit to adjust the alliance's nuclear posture and to bring it into conformity with the negative security assurances given now by the US and the UK separately to non-nuclear states which are in full conformity with their non-proliferation treaty obligations; namely, that we would neither use nor threaten to use nuclear weapons against them.

What on earth is one to make of the fact that NATO does not have the same position? Are the US and the UK bound by their assurances when it acts unilaterally but not if they act as part of the alliance? It is surely desirable to clear up this ambiguity at the earliest opportunity. Similarly, it is surely equally desirable to make it clear to the Russians that the alliance is ready to work with them for the mutual reduction of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and to do so as a matter of practical urgency now that the US and Russia have ratified, and last weekend in Munich brought into effect, the new START treaty on strategic weapons.

This subject, along with ballistic missile defence and the scope for co-operation with the Russians over that too, are matters which need to be carried forward purposefully if opportunities are not to be missed. I very much hope that the Minister will say what sort of input we are making into the follow-up work to the agreement at last November's NATO summit to carry forward discussion of these issues.

The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, referred to cyber, which clearly is a threat to the NATO alliance, as it is to the EU. It is a threat in security terms to NATO, and in terms of cybercrime and a lot of other issues it is a threat to the European Union. Last weekend, I was present in Munich when the right honourable gentleman the Foreign Secretary made an excellent speech about the need to face up to the threats from cyber and about his intention to bring together a conference or gathering of relevant countries here in the latter part of this year. He took an excellent initiative and, from what I could gather, it was extremely well received.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 417

In preparing that, I hope he will cast his net fairly wide and make sure that he brings within the scope of the considerations the work being done in NATO and in the European Union, and the need to talk to countries like India, China and Russia. Although they may be, and certainly are, part of the threat, they also have to be part of the way of handling the threat if we are not to move, as we did with nuclear weapons, through a phase of mutually assured destruction before we realise that that is not a frightfully clever direction in which to be moving.

The future of NATO remains a key focus for this country's foreign policy. But it needs to be a NATO which is adapting to new challenges and which is learning lessons from past errors. International organisations which fail to adapt, like national institutions which fail to adapt, become extraordinarily vulnerable and much less useful. It is not in our interest that NATO should fall into that sort of category.

3.45 pm

Lord Rosser: My Lords, I add my congratulations to those already expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on securing this debate and with it the opportunity to discuss the future of NATO. I also add my congratulations to those already expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Flight, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, on their eloquent, enjoyable and informative maiden speeches, which reflected their considerable knowledge and expertise on the issues on which they spoke.

The NATO Heads of State and Government Summit took place last November in Lisbon. A number of issues were on the agenda, including the launch of the alliance's new strategic concept, with its renewed commitment to three key tasks; namely, collective defence, crisis management and co-operative security. The new strategic concept accepts that the threat of a conventional attack against NATO territory is currently low, but it identifies a number of potential threats to alliance security, including the proliferation of ballistic missile technologies, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction-not least in some of the world's most volatile regions-terrorism, cyberattacks, increasing dependence on energy supplies from outside NATO countries and the impact of issues such as climate change, scarcity of water supply and increasing energy need on security in areas of concern to NATO.

In the light of these considerations, the strategic concept made a number of recommendations for the alliance collectively, including sustaining the necessary levels of defence spending. Do the Government consider that current and projected levels of defence spending will enable this country to meet the objectives and spirit of NATO's new strategic concept? We welcome the new strategic concept for NATO, which recognises the new threats that the world faces. However, do the Government believe that there is any validity in a view that has been expressed that there may be a mismatch between the wide-ranging objectives and goals of the alliance, as set out in the new strategic concept, and the reduction in resources that member nations are expected to allocate to defence as a result of the impact of the global recession?

10 Feb 2011 : Column 418

In a speech last October the NATO Secretary-General said that he understood why allies were cutting into their defence budgets, but he then said that cuts could go too far and that we should avoid cutting so deep that Europe could not pull its weight when it came to security, which might lead the United States to look elsewhere for its security partner. In view of those concerns expressed by the Secretary-General, can the Minister say whether there has been any debate within NATO about the central funding requirements of the alliance and the projected levels of defence expenditure of its member states in the light of the wide ranging objectives and goals set out in the new strategic concept? Perhaps he can also say what decisions or actions the Government have taken, or started to take, in the light of the content of the new strategic concept since it was agreed at Lisbon last November, and what actions they envisage taking over the next 12 months.

The key challenge for NATO in Lisbon was to define its purpose in a 21st-century security landscape and outline how it will be as important in the future as it has been in the past. There have, however, been comments from some quarters that the consensus achieved at the Lisbon summit was fairly superficial and that differences of opinion existed between NATO allies on the key purposes of the alliance, including over its focus on the task of guaranteeing the security of Europe in relation to its activities in undertaking crisis management operations "out of area". Can the Minister say whether the Government believe that there are differences of view between NATO allies on the purposes of the alliance, or whether the wide ranging nature of the objectives and roles of the alliance as set out in the new strategic concept means that there is a common, united accord on the point and purposes of NATO to which all subscribe around those wide ranging objectives and roles?

The development of military capabilities has been a regular item on the agenda for NATO allies. This now includes agreement on the enhancement of cyberdefence capabilities, and in particular on defence against a cyberattack aimed at systems of critical importance to the alliance. A NATO cyberdefence policy is to be drawn up by the middle of this year and an action plan for its implementation prepared. What role is the United Kingdom playing in drawing up the action plan, and is the target date of June this year likely to be achieved?

The Lisbon summit called also for reform of the institutional structures of the alliance. A final decision on a new NATO command structure is expected to be taken no later than June this year. Is that target date likely to be achieved? What do the Government want to see achieved by a new command structure that is not currently being realised-or is it simply a matter of seeking to reduce costs?

On the issue of Afghanistan, the Lisbon summit confirmed the process of transition to Afghan security responsibility, resulting in Afghan forces gradually assuming full responsibility for security across the whole of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. We strongly support Afghan forces taking the lead in 2014, but it is important that work is done to ensure that the date is achievable, which will mean increased efforts in

10 Feb 2011 : Column 419

political reconciliation and more inclusive Afghan security forces and local government. We welcome NATO's endorsement of the Afghan-led reconciliation programme. What progress has been made since the Lisbon summit in moving forward this programme as rapidly as possible?

NATO must set out detailed plans to train and develop Afghan security forces, as they will have responsibility for the country when we leave. Milestones should be set to track the progress of the transition plan. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that this will be done, and what those milestones will be. British troops will continue to play a training role in Afghanistan from 2015. It is important that these troops will have the right security conditions to do that job, as the safety of our forces must be paramount. I will not ask the Minister a question on this, because I am sure that he, too, holds that view.

The Lisbon summit also discussed the relationship between NATO and Russia. It is clearly right that we should seek to improve our relationship with Russia, and we welcome the new phase of co-operation. We welcome the joint work on the new missile defence system. This development shows how the world has changed since the Cold War because it involves co-operation with, rather than the isolation of, Russia. Only through such co-operation will progress towards the ambitious long-term aims set out by President Obama in 2009 of a world without nuclear weapons stand any chance of being achieved.

This country, under the post-war Labour Government, was a founder member of NATO. Our belief on this side of the House in the importance of multilateral co-operation and of working through NATO for British security and international peace and stability is now, if anything, even stronger. However, it is also clear from Afghanistan that in defending the 900 million citizens of NATO countries against the threats that we face today and will face in the decade ahead, our involvement with fragile states in order to prevent terrorism will mean that NATO must pursue its objectives on the basis that military means can be successful only alongside political, civilian and humanitarian development.

NATO has grown considerably and is quite different in its composition from the original 12 charter members. The nations making up today's NATO vary in their geography and history, in their outlook on such things as human rights, and in their views on national and collective defence. The alliance's members are also changing internally, not least as a result of demographic changes. However, NATO has adapted to change before, as it moved on from the Cold War alliance, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. NATO has been described as an essential source of stability in an uncertain world. It has been in the past, and there is no reason why it should not continue to be so in the very different world in which we live today, and the world in which we are likely to live in future.

3.55 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, this has been a very expert and enjoyable debate. I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to it. In particular, I thank my noble friend Lord Addington for securing

10 Feb 2011 : Column 420

the debate and the two maiden speakers, who are fairly expert contributors themselves. I said to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, the other day that I must once have lectured to him. I was privileged to lecture to the Royal College of Defence Studies once a year for 21 years, which makes me just about old enough to have been there when he was there in the early 1990s.

We are discussing a subject that, as the noble Lord, Lord Browne, rightly pointed out, is insufficiently debated in the national media and the national Parliament. I very much agree with everything he said about the need for a more informed debate. After all, NATO has achieved peace in Europe and tremendous success as an alliance. However, that task has been transformed since the Cold War crumbled away in 1989 and 1990. Europe is now at peace, although still with unresolved conflicts around its edges. Most of the former members of the Warsaw Pact are now members of both the EU and NATO. NATO has had to reinvent itself to serve usefully new purposes.

The Lisbon NATO summit last November approved a new strategic concept, which now needs to guide the process of NATO reform and of changing capabilities. NATO needs to reinvent itself every 10 years to remain an effective alliance that commands the full support of all its members. As the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, said, the continued effectiveness of NATO also depends on public support within the member states. The absence of strong political leadership within Europe to which he referred is thus a major threat to the continuation of the alliance.

I regret that we do not discuss defence and defence co-operation very often in either House of the British Parliament. I regret that we do not spend more time discussing these issues across national Parliaments and across national debates. All noble Lords who have been involved in discussing European security with our German partners, for example, will know that they start from a very different perspective from the British. The French are a great deal closer to us. Engaging in each other's domestic debates is part of holding NATO together.

I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Bates, to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. We need to make sure that we plug such assemblies back into national Parliaments to ensure that it continues to have a useful function. If we do not, Defence Ministers agree and go back and Finance Ministers veto, leaving us stuck without the capabilities that we need.

I particularly welcome the emphasis of the noble Lord, Lord Lee, on the Franco-British treaty-one of the latest developments in British security policy. That is a new treaty that needs to be debated and explained, and for which we need to build public support as we carry it into practice.

I identified at least seven themes in this debate and I probably missed several more. There is the crucial link between the United States and the security of the European region, which NATO has been about since the start and in which it continues to be one of the key elements. There is the whole question of NATO command structure reform and NATO reform as a whole; the nuclear dimension; the NATO-Russia relationship; the implications of the Franco-British defence and

10 Feb 2011 : Column 421

security co-operation treaty; north Atlantic co-operation on out-of-area operations, on which several noble Lords discussed the key Afghan operation; and the development of a comprehensive approach to civil conflict.

On the question of the link with the United States, several noble Lords have said that it is true that the United States no longer sees European security as its key priority. We are, after all, blessed; Europe is now at peace. However, the link that an integrated alliance gives us to American intelligence and the American military is invaluable-it is part of what enables NATO, or at least willing members of it, to operate together in area or out of area whenever we need to. We see that in central Asia and of course in Afghanistan, and we might have to see it again in other areas.

On Afghanistan, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, will allow me to say that he raised a large number of questions that go rather wider than this debate. I pay tribute to the substantial number of British troops who have been committed to Afghanistan and will continue to be for some while yet. We feel that we are making good progress in a very difficult set of circumstances. We have learnt in Afghanistan, as from the Balkan experience, that our approach to security needs to be, as the strategic concept puts it, "comprehensive"-a mixture of civil and military capabilities. We are, we hope, learning from the awkward lessons that we are suffering in order to put those lessons into practice. That in turn means that relations between the more civilian power of the EU and the more military power of NATO become a more important part of our alliance as a whole.

On NATO reform, the NATO strategic concept commits NATO to,

As noble Lords know, the Secretary-General has just made a speech at the Munich security conference in which he highlighted the need for NATO to reduce bureaucracy and slim down structures. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, referred to the bureaucratic tempo of NATO Brussels and the slow-moving-sometimes, not even moving-consensus through which we all struggle. Those of us who know the NATO headquarters, those extremely rickety temporary buildings from the 1960s, know that it is not just a question of saving money to knock them down and build an effective and smaller headquarters; it is also a matter of trying to build a more efficient apparatus that suits an entirely different set of threats from those that existed in the early 1960s when NATO first moved its headquarters from Paris to Brussels. It is not just to reduce costs. We are bringing down the number of headquarters and the number of agencies because the tasks that we face are very different.

One of the issues under consideration is whether the NATO maritime command HQ should remain at Northwood in the United Kingdom. Her Majesty's Government strongly believe that it should on the grounds of its proven efficiency, effectiveness and low running costs; because it has the necessary infrastructure and communications to command surface and sub-surface

10 Feb 2011 : Column 422

maritime forces; and because it is the only NATO HQ that is co-located with a current EU operations HQ, as both NATO and EU counterpiracy operations are being run from the same location and interact closely. The UK has been driving resource reform, which includes the implementation of improved financial management, accountability and oversight, and we will continue to support the Secretary-General in his efforts.

The Lisbon summit set out a strategic direction in the new strategic concept. Of course, it does not command absolute agreement by all members of the alliance to every single item listed in it; we are a large alliance, operating by consensus, and, as in all forms of politics, we have to engage with each other in a constant process of persuasion to share and build common purposes. It is vital for alliances to retain this shared vision and to work together to implement it. The strategic concept and the plans to implement it are very much in line with the UK's national security strategy and the outcome of our strategic defence and security review.

We welcome the emphasis on civil military planning and action throughout the conflict cycle and that is part of the comprehensive approach that we know we all have to develop. We look for closer EU-NATO co-operation. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, will know, we still stub our toes on the issue of Cyprus and Turkey, but we are managing to build still closer relations between the EU and NATO, and we see that as very much the way that we need to go. As set out in the SDSR, we believe that UK membership of the European Union is a key part of our broad security international engagement and a key means of promoting security and prosperity in the European neighbourhood. The common security interests of all EU member states, NATO members or not, are served when they use their collective weight in the world to promote their shared interests and values, including on major foreign policy security concerns.

Noble Lords asked about NATO's nuclear posture. At the moment, we are debating the whole question of the future of tactical nuclear weapons. The NATO members are rather more committed so far to drawing down the number of nuclear weapons than our Russian partners with whom we are in dialogue, but as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, will know, the question of the future of NATO's remaining free-fall nuclear weapons is one that is currently under discussion.

I will say a little about the UK Franco-British treaty. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Lee, that it is the Franco-British treaty and not the Anglo-French treaty. The Scots have been in military co-operation with the French rather longer than the English. Indeed, when Sir William Wallace was Guardian of Scotland, he was actively engaged in pursuing Scots-French military co-operation against the English-sadly, on that occasion without success, as the plaque commemorating his execution in Westminster Hall observes.

The historic treaty signed by the UK and France last November demonstrates our commitment to work together to address the challenges facing the alliance. It recognises that great defence and security co-operation will strengthen NATO as the foundation of our collective

10 Feb 2011 : Column 423

security and reaffirms the role that the European Union plays in strengthening international security. The return of France to the heart of NATO under the leadership of President Sarkozy is of course part of the context in which this new treaty has been signed. France and the UK will work together to help shape the new NATO strategic concept. But we are also working more closely together in implementing the concept. Closer co-operation makes great sense at a point where both countries face acute pressures on our defence budgets, where our approach to the deployment of troops abroad to the management of international conflict is very close and where, therefore, there is a great deal that we can share.

I cannot give the noble Lord, Lord Lee, a direct answer on co-operation with the French on maritime surveillance, but I can promise that I will write to him. Closer co-operation will make our forces more interoperable. As the SDSR highlighted, our default position is to operate as a partner wherever we can. If that allows our forces to operate alongside each other more effectively in the future, that is an enormous advantage. There are those in both Houses and the British media who see that as a tremendous threat to British sovereignty. It is possible to overstate the sovereignty issue. In 1917-18, my father along with several hundred thousand other British troops, served under effective French command. It was not seen as a tremendous block in British sovereignty then. ISAF has been under French, Turkish, Danish and various other commands. We co-operate with others when British interests are at stake. That is the way we have to work in the world today.

We see the Franco-British treaty as a basis on which we can build and sustain other forms of co-operation with other European countries. The oldest and closest form of military co-operation that we have in Europe is the UK-Dutch marine amphibious force, now nearly 30 years old. The Ministry of Defence has just launched a Nordic initiative on military and security grounds, and we look forward to working more closely with others and helping to challenge other states to come up to scratch in their contribution to European military capabilities for the EU and NATO.

On NATO and Russia, we are working hard to develop a strong partnership focused on common interests. We face many common challenges in Afghanistan, as well as in counterterrorism, piracy and counternarcotics. We agreed at the Lisbon summit to work together and enhance our practical co-operation. That can be seen in agreement on transit routes to and from Afghanistan and in closer agreement in countering the narcotics trade that comes across central Asia into Europe. Future collaboration, particularly on missile defence, has the potential to improve NATO and Russia's security as well as our overall security relationship. We are continuing to negotiate with the Russians to modernise the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, the CFE.

On co-operation out of area, Afghanistan has of course taken us way out of area and has helped to transform NATO. I believe that 48 states, many of them not NATO members, are contributing to the allied effort in Afghanistan. Off Somalia there are

10 Feb 2011 : Column 424

Indian and Chinese ships working with British, Dutch and German ships in the anti-piracy control and in MONUSCO in the DRC we have Indian troops as the largest contingent and a British major-general as the second in command.

NATO is reinventing itself, but we need to ensure that the people of Britain and leaders in other countries continue to be supportive of what NATO's changing role should be. I suppose that I should admit that I have form here, as in 1990 I spoke at a conference on the future of NATO in Brussels, arguing that NATO was unlikely to exist in 2000. In 2000, I published an article in Survival entitled "What is NATO for?", implying that it was not very easy to answer that question. One has to say here in 2011 that NATO has adapted remarkably well and has enlarged very successfully. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, that, yes, article 5 does apply to the new members. It was an astonishing achievement to provide security across central and eastern Europe to help to transform and integrate their armed forces, to give them the stability that underpinned their transition to democracy and prosperity. Enlargement will continue. The remaining countries in the western Balkans are moving at different paces towards membership. The question of Ukraine and Georgia is a long-term one, but the Bucharest summit in 2008 said that membership remained open to them.

The new strategic concept talks about the different sort of threats that we face. If there is a cyberattack on a NATO member as there was in Estonia, it is not entirely clear who was responsible-whether it was a state-and where it came from, so the response has to be much more complex. What we need, therefore, is more complex capabilities in return. I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that the reduction in resources faces us with major challenges. NATO, however, remains central to UK security and to the security of the European region. It is a resource for all of us to call on in managing global threats.

I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate and hope that we will all continue to argue the case for European and Atlantic co-operation in security and argue it not only in London but in Berlin, Warsaw, Stockholm and many other capitals of Europe.

4.15 pm

Lord Addington: My Lords, all that remains for me to do is to thank all those who have taken part, particularly the two maiden speakers. The noble Lord, Lord Browne, warned us that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, is an extremely good speaker and that we would all be doing very well to keep up with him. He was very right. The noble Lord, Lord Flight, pointed out to us in an aside the place that we did not mention until my noble friend proposed it-in global security terms, India will indeed be a player of considerable note.

We will probably have to return to this debate again, as the noble Lord, Lord Browne, said, because the situation will change. The general consensus is that NATO has survived from its original purpose to go on and to do something else. We must observe what that is while being aware that it will probably not be

10 Feb 2011 : Column 425

something which we are predicting at the moment. However, any organisation that brings together 28 states, some of which were formerly potential enemies, must have something going for it. With that thought, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion withdrawn.

Radioactive Waste Management: Science and Technology Committee Report

Copy of the Report

Motion to Take Note

4.16 pm

Moved By Lord Broers

Lord Broers: My Lords, before discussing the Science and Technology Select Committee's report, RadioactiveWasteManagement: a further update, I wish to compliment the coalition and the previous Government on their firm support for nuclear power as a major component in the UK's energy strategy. At last, we seem to be moving forward and the Minister and the Government are to be congratulated.

The Revised Draft National Policy Statement for Nuclear Power Generation (EN-6) identifies eight sites that are judged by the Government potentially to be suitable for new power stations before 2025. We are told in paragraph B.4.1 of annexe B of EN-6 that the first such station is expected to start generating electricity in 2018. This would not set any records in terms of timescale. Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of Areva, told us in a Royal Academy of Engineering lecture last week that the Chinese are building power stations in 48 months, but China's ability to focus with singular determination is unlikely to be achievable in this country, or in fact in any of our competitor nations in the west. However, after more than two decades, we are at least on the move.

That is particularly gratifying to the members of the Science and Technology Select Committee. For more than a decade, the committee has been on record as supporting nuclear power as the most predictably affordable source of low-carbon electricity. We have long held the view that, without it, the expense of meeting our carbon reduction targets would be impossible. To get this far, it has been important to change the public perception of the risks of nuclear power and, especially, to persuade people that it is possible safely to dispose of the various grades of waste that will be produced in the new plants. Again, significant progress has been made in the past few years through the efforts both of the many engineering and science organisations and of this and the previous Government, so to a large extent most of the political obstacles that have prevented us from even getting started have been removed.

We need, however, to be continually vigilant that transparency is maintained so that public superstition

10 Feb 2011 : Column 426

is not reawakened, and we must be aware that we are yet actually to do anything practical in terms of geological storage. The scale of what has to be done is huge and it is necessary that we dispel what has appeared to be a sense of complacency and replace it with a sense of urgency. This is perhaps the main point that I wish to make this afternoon. Some of the targets laid out in EN-6 for getting solutions in place for storing waste are too late.

Turning to the committee's report, let me here express my thanks and appreciation to the noble Lords who will be speaking in this debate, despite the fact that it has been scheduled late on Thursday afternoon. At the end of 2009, the Science and Technology Select Committee decided, largely because we were concerned about the perceived complacency, that we would look at the matter once again and conduct a short inquiry. This was the fifth time that the committee had reported on the subject of radioactive waste management-the first was in 1999. As there was little point in repeating what had already been said, it was decided to limit the inquiry to assessing how the reconstructed Committee on Radioactive Waste Management-CoRWM-had performed over the previous two years and gauging its impact on the implementation of the Government's managing radioactive waste safely-MRWS-programme.

We limited ourselves to a single evidence-taking session. We were fortunate that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, the then Minister for Energy and Climate Change in DECC and his colleagues were able to answer our questions as were the chairman of CoRWM, Professor Robert Pickard, and his colleagues. I thank them all for their time and for their submissions to the committee. Subsequently, in November 2010, we received the Government's response to our report from the new Government's Minister of State in DECC, Mr Charles Hendry. It is Mr Hendry's response that I will address today. I also thank and acknowledge Christine Salmon, clerk to the Science and Technology Committee, and her colleagues for supporting the committee so well, and especially Antony Willott, clerk to the sub-committee that conducted the inquiry, and from whose clear and concise drafts the report emerged.

The first three recommendations in the report concern how we feel the Government should respond to recommendations made by CoRWM. We urge the Government to act-and be seen to act-upon CoRWM's recommendations that the Government should publish an annual report setting out what action has been taken towards meeting CoRWM's other recommendations and also enable CoRWM to effectively monitor the Government's progress in implementing its recommendations.

It was gratifying that Mr Hendry in his response committed to producing an annual report to Parliament which will be published, with copies provided to CoRWM as well as other stakeholders. The response said that the report will include progress towards meeting the commitments given by Government as a result of CoRWM's recommendations, as well as indications of progress towards milestones. However, there is no

10 Feb 2011 : Column 427

mention of this in EN-6. Paragraph B.3.7-in volume II of the revised draft national policy statement-says that,

but it does not mention CoRWM. I hope that this is an oversight and I would like the Minister to reassure us that the report will describe specifically what has been done to meet CoRWM's recommendations. CoRWM is the independent body that the public will want to see is being listened to. The MRWS is a Government-driven programme, so reassurance that everything is going according to plan will come best from CoRWM. Let us not forget the lesson that we have learned about transparency and openness in communicating with the public.

Several of our recommendations relate to the need to develop a sense of urgency in the implementation of the MRWS programme and in the time-line for the programme. The NDA's present plan is to place the first waste, which will be intermediate-level legacy waste, in a geological disposal facility in 2040. This is based on taking four years to complete desk-based studies of potential candidate sites, 10 years of seismic surveys and borehole investigations and 15 years of underground operations, including research, initial construction and commissioning. It is also pointed out that the overall timing will depend on the communities involved in the process. This schedule should be re-examined with the intent of introducing as much parallelism as possible. It should certainly be possible to pursue planning and consultation at the same time that several of the technical issues are being investigated. It should not be necessary to do everything sequentially.

The first high-level legacy waste will not be stored until 2075. Rather incredibly, EN-6 states that waste from new nuclear plants will not be placed in geological storage until 2130, when the storage of legacy waste has been completed. Setting dates 119 years ahead is bizarre. It would be like making plans for future telegraph systems in 1892, seven years before JJ Thomson discovered the electron. Nobody then, even in their wildest dreams, could have predicted that in 2011 there would be an internet based on optical fibres, silicon and glass switches called transistors, and magnetic and optical storage of books and moving pictures, any more than we can, with any credibility, predict where we will be in 2130, other than to say that if we have not completed the storage of our existing legacy waste by then we must surely have chosen the wrong method.

All of what I have been saying so far has related to geological storage, but it is also important to have a more detailed time-line for intermediate storage so that CoRWM can monitor this as well as the progress towards geological storage. There is some confusion about this in the government response, which says,

in the NDA plans, but it goes on to say,

10 Feb 2011 : Column 428

I ask the Minister please to clarify the situation with respect to the availability of a comprehensive time-line for intermediate waste storage.

At present there are several different forms of intermediate storage and it is important that rapid progress is made with all of them. This is particularly important for the legacy waste, especially that stored in the water tanks at Sellafield which present such huge difficulties. This waste will have to be removed to intermediate storage before it can be placed in geological storage. The risks of leaving the waste where it is are considerable and must be reduced. I ask the Minister, in clarifying the time-line for intermediate waste storage, to be specific about when the content of these water tanks will be removed and placed in safer containers and the tanks themselves demolished. I appreciate that the Minister may not have this information at hand, but it would be very useful if the committee could have this.

The Select Committee is concerned that there be a co-ordinated and adequately funded R&D programme for radioactive waste, especially for higher activity waste disposal. The committee noted that the first recommendation in CoRWM's October 2009 report on R&D was that,

I was troubled therefore to read the Government's response to this recommendation in their November 2010 response to the CoRWM report, which goes on for three pages describing the plethora of committees and advisory bodies that were responsible for co-ordinating R&D and concludes in paragraph 3.10 that there is the need to which I have referred. The paragraph states:

"The Government will consider with the NDA whether a re-focussed Board can determine how best to get broader strategic coordination".

I would be grateful if the Minister could give us an update on progress in co-ordinating R&D.

Finally, we recommended that CoRWM formally provides the Government with independent advice on draft, as well as established, policies that have implications for the management of radioactive waste, and we note with pleasure that this has been largely accepted.

To end on another positive note, most of the issues that we have had with the way in which CoRWM prepares its reports have been resolved, and overall we commend CoRWM for its rigorous approach to evidence gathering and stakeholder engagement. It is pleasing that the Select Committee's concerns about the lack of members with experience of business and practical on-site operations and engineering have also been resolved. I beg to move.

4.28 pm

Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: I am happy to follow the noble Lord, Lord Broers, who was a most effective chairman in the short period that we had to look at this issue. The fact that this was one of a continuum of investigations into this difficult area does not necessarily mean that progress has not been made. However, when one realises that the report was published on 25 March 2010, the Government responded on 9 October 2010

10 Feb 2011 : Column 429

and we are debating this on 10 February 2011, one gets a sense that there is a wee bit of frustration about this topic.

The noble Lord, Lord Broers, in his remarks today and in the publication of the report, reflected our concern about the apparent lack of urgency. In some respects, this is still the story with CoRWM. However, looking back to when CoRWM was first established, the seeds of doubt were certainly sowed in my mind that at that time its establishment was a device of the then Labour Government Ministers to give credence to the argument that in the absence of a clear and proper strategy for waste disposal and storage no more nuclear power stations should be built in this country. That is an assertion that we still hear echoed on certain parts of the opposition Benches; but I will not go any further down that road today.

Suffice to say, timetables have always apparently been relaxed, procedures have sometimes been unnecessarily rigorous, and programmes have always been long term. I know that there have been changes in personnel and that timescales have been shortened. Perhaps the leisurely approach to this intellectually challenging subject is not quite as relaxed and easy as it once was. Regarding our first recommendation, in which we spoke of the need for effective action, it is certainly fair to say that part of that challenge has been met by the public expenditure settlement that the Government arrived at with the NDA. There is now a clear basis of leadership in the NDA and a secure sense of budgetary security within the agency and it is therefore able to see the future that much more clearly.

It is also worth pointing out that the Government are consulting. I give them credit for that. I suppose that I should declare an interest as the chair of the Nuclear Industries Association. There is also fixed-price decommissioning and waste transfer pricing. The cognoscenti certainly know what I am talking about. It relates to a consultation document about the future pricing of electricity, which will take account of the new-build waste that will be part of what the storage facilities will have to accommodate.

We know that a far clearer view is emerging on how to deal with the waste. In some respects, there was always a clear view, in so far as there were examples from Sweden and Finland of how the waste could be treated and stored effectively. The confidence with which the Finns are going ahead, despite their difficulties with the construction of their nuclear plant, is based on the knowledge that they are happy that they are able to deal with their new nuclear waste. The problem, hinted at by the noble Lord, Lord Broers, is that we have the prospect not only of new waste from new power stations, but of sizeable amounts of waste from Magnox stations, and even greater amounts from our nuclear weapons programme. Some of the liability will become an asset if we are able successfully to address the challenges which a new Mox plant would create. Building a Mox plant that can transform some of the waste into Mox fuel for future use in our new power stations will be of considerable assistance and will reduce some of the burden of waste which we have to confront.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 430

That brings me on to the timescale. In some respects, we as a committee were disappointed that we were being told, in a sense, that, "Everything will be all right. There will be four more years of desk-based analysis; then we will have test bores and the like for another 10 years. In the interim period, we will probably have the acceptance of sites by local communities; and then we will have 15 years until the waste is received-taking us until 2040". It seemed to me and to a number of my colleagues in the committee that little attention was paid to the possibility of reprocessing waste, of improvements in mining technology or of geological storage. The noble Lord, Lord Broers, very eloquently showed off his scientific expertise in the context of telecommunications. I was able to point out that it seems daft that we are talking about a number of the challenges not being met for another 120 years. One of our concerns-it has in part been addressed by government-related to the composition of the committee. I have no complaint about the appointment of the people who are on it, but I thought that others should have been on it-people with not just geoscience qualifications but experience in finance, project management and risk management who could give a realistic idea of what work the implementation of the science would involve. I know that the Government are going some way in seeking to deal with that, and I hope that we can get a better balance in the committee. That is not a criticism of its membership; it is just that I think the membership base has been too narrow.

I certainly welcome the undertaking that there will be ministerial involvement in the Geological Disposal Implementation Board because it is important that there is political accountability throughout this process. Although we have been able to secure in the Government's response some measure of acceptance of the need for greater transparency, the presence of a Minister on a board of this nature is of some significance.

With regard to the role of CoRWM and the fact that it has to give independent advice to government, we know that there has sometimes been over-rigorous preparation of papers-perhaps I may use the expression "over-engineering". Sometimes perhaps it has elaborated and deliberated rather longer than it needed to. However, we certainly also have to recognise that a degree of caution must be exercised when papers are being published in what might well be regarded as draft form. We were somewhat worried that, when papers emerge into the public domain and the word "draft" is written on them in very light pencil, that can create a lot of confusion. "Caution" is one of the watchwords that we always have to bear in mind when we deal with nuclear matters. We have to be careful not to frighten people unnecessarily. On the one hand, it is exciting and important that the science and the challenges that science offers can be embraced, but equally we have to avoid leaving ourselves open to sniping from people who are always prepared to challenge every aspect of nuclear, whether a challenge is merited or not.

I do not want to appear carping in my criticism of the delay in the Government's response. Having been the chair of a Select Committee in the other place, I know that we used to try to screw them down to a six-week response period. However, there has been a change of government-there have even been changes

10 Feb 2011 : Column 431

of policy within ministries in recent months-so there is a reason for the delay. In some respects, we are able to debate this issue now knowing that the whole question of CoRWM and the work in which it is engaged will be on a sound financial footing. The NDA is going to be able to look at this in a far more constructive way than it has done before.

We see a clearer role for CoRWM in relation to this revitalised NDA and, therefore, if we can get a slightly more pragmatic approach, which is a little more urgent in character, we can begin to think of things more in the short term than we have in the past, so that 2040 might not seem quite so far away if it becomes 2035 for the best of reasons. It might be that the 120-year time span for the legacy to be completed and for other forms of waste to be stored could be reduced as well. I think that the work of CoRWM and the work of the Select Committee in producing the report will have gone some way to accelerating the process, which still needs a shove and constant monitoring.

I hope that this will not be the last debate that we have on this subject. I hope also that the successor Science and Technology Select Committee will have a similar inquiry in the future and that it will be even more positive than we have been so far.

4.41 pm

Lord Teverson: My Lords, I genuinely welcome this report by the noble Lord, Lord Broers. I had not realised that this was the fifth in the series-I had counted up to three. I highly recommend that he keeps on the same track and that we have more, especially because of the timescale that has already been mentioned. Reading it afresh earlier this week, I found it quite strange because it referred to evidence from "the Minister" and that was the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. I wondered whether I had gone through a time warp or whether matters had changed yet again somehow. The fact that this report has taken almost a year is, as the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, has said, a symptom of the problem, although I clearly understand that there was a general election in between.

This is a really important core subject. The previous Government were and this Government are entering into an era of new nuclear capacity, so there will be waste from that new industry. We already have significant waste from the current nuclear industry, the so-called legacy waste. I looked up how much we have and it is 1,700 cubic metres of high-level waste, 92,000 cubic metres of medium-level waste, rising to 3 million cubic metres of low-level waste. That is quite a challenge.

One thing that concerns me most about the nuclear industry is not so much security, important though that is, but the fact that we have not yet solved the problem of waste, not only from something that we have already created but also as regards the new era we are entering into. When we looked at the draft national policy statements for nuclear power generation, I was concerned that in part 2 of that report it simply said:

"Annex B of this NPS sets out how the Government has satisfied itself that effective arrangements will exist for the management and disposal of the wastes produced by new nuclear power stations".

10 Feb 2011 : Column 432

It goes on to say in another paragraph:

"The question of whether effective arrangements will exist to manage and dispose of the waste that will be produced from new nuclear power stations has therefore been addressed by the Government and the IPC should not consider this further".

As a rational human being, let alone parliamentarian, that concerns me greatly. With this new programme, we already have a problem with waste, yet even in the planning process we assume that we have solved the problem when clearly we have not. That is why I welcome this report and I welcome very strongly the Government's response to it, which I think has been extremely positive on the recommendations. I support the fact that CoRWM should become increasingly independent, that it should steer its own programme, that there should be milestones and transparency and that there should be an annual parliamentary report, which is particularly important because of the timescales.

I come back to timing, and the committee's concern in its report that this matter is not given sufficient urgency. During debate in Grand Committee on the national policy statements, we were all shocked when my noble friend said, because the policy was inherited from the previous Government:

"The revised draft national policy statement reflects that we currently expect the geological disposal facility to be ready to take new build waste in 2130".-[Official Report, 13/01/11; col. GC 151.]

Looking backwards, that is the equivalent of the 1890s. That is my greatest concern from the report. It begs the obvious question-I know that my noble friend has similar concerns-of where we now think that those timescales will lie. The year 2140 is not so far away, but if we are talking about another 120 years until we can cope with the waste created by new build, we have a real problem in our planning for the industry.

That is all I want to say about the report except to follow up some questions that arise from it, which have often been mentioned by other noble Lords. First, on waste minimisation, my noble friend said that he had commissioned a cost-benefit analysis of Mox. I would be interested to hear if he has an update of that. In waste disposal internationally, Finland has moved on with its Olkiluoto facility. Have the Government learnt any lessons from that which mean that our facilities can be brought forward? Are the Government thinking further about fusion technology? I know that there are all sorts of questions about that, but that is a way to use nuclear waste for further energy and to neutralise its effects. Lastly, I come back to the question of the timescale. It is not right that we move ahead with a new nuclear programme until we are a little more clear about how we are to clear up the mess that we have already created.

4.47 pm

Lord Grantchester: My Lords, I thank the Science and Technology Sub-Committee for its short report on the performance of CoRWM in the implementation of the managing radioactive waste safely programme. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Broers, on the excellent way in which he introduced the report. It has been a very useful and worthwhile assessment of this important policy area. We note that the Committee's recommendations have been welcomed and accepted by the Government.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 433

With the Government's policy to re-emphasise new nuclear as a key element of the UK energy mix and the timetable for new plants to become operational, we on these Benches welcome the acceptance of the commitment to get on with the recommendations, and hope that effective action is implemented with greater urgency.

All speakers today have drawn attention to the general feeling that drift continues. The committee made two key recommendations to track progress and ensure that timeliness is maintained by the Government. The first is the publication of an annual report, and we welcome the committee's recommendation in this regard. In their response to the report, at paragraph 16, the Government said that they,

Can the Minister give us any update today on when the annual report will be published?

The second of those key recommendations is for milestones to be laid out for the monitoring of progress. Again at paragraph 16 of their response, the Government agree with this recommendation for the annual report,

The committee's report, published in March 2010, said at paragraph 20 that it understood that the National Decommissioning Agency would shortly be publishing a document, Steps Towards Implementation. Can the Minister today update the House on progress of the publication of these documents? The noble Lord, Lord Broers, has also drawn attention to and expressed concern over the lack of publications coming forward. If the Government could be seen from the outset to be forthcoming in their commitments they would, through this transparency, build the confidence of the public.

The report also provided guidance to CoRWM with recommendations that it applies its usual rigorous approach to all publications; that it focuses its activities where it can concentrate on the science, with evidence-based advice; and that it widens the skill set of its membership with the addition of experience from practical business operations and engineering. We note this undercurrent of anxiety concerning CoRWM, and welcome the agreement in the Government's response and comments on the expertise of CoRWM members that the requirements of CoRWM will change over time. The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, has made the case powerfully today that a widening of this expertise at an early stage would be helpful in bringing forward activity. We agree that a science-based approach must be right and vital in building confidence and the participation of communities in developing opportunities. We call for science to seek to use innovation to reduce the cost burden.

In the energy debate at the start of the year the Minister underlined that the nuclear industry will not receive any subsidy and must pay for all its costs, including reprocessing and waste storage. The UK has some of the most developed decommissioning infrastructure in the world, as well as associated indigenous capability. Given that the Secretary of State expresses frustration that half his department's budget is spent on decommissioning and clean-up costs associated with the oldest nuclear plant, has a review been undertaken

10 Feb 2011 : Column 434

on the progress at Sellafield, and can the Minister say whether he is satisfied with the work being undertaken in regard to its quality, results to date and pace of progress? In paragraph 6 of the government response to the report, the Government agree that research and development needs to be appropriately funded. Are the Government satisfied that the funding is there? Can the Minister confirm where it is coming from and that it has not and will not become another victim of government cuts?

It is encouraging that progress is being made in the identification of sites for storage. Although it is recognised that all the implications for both short and long-term storage are important, does the Minister nevertheless agree that the pressure for more and more geological research must not be overbalanced in the search for the perfect at the expense of the fit-for-purpose? A robust tendering process is enhanced by the competitive tension from alternative sites. We welcome the expression of interest from Cumbria, but I press the Minister on what action the Government are taking to stimulate interest from other local communities. We would welcome an update from the Minister on any action and any progress that has been made recently.

Experience gained by UK businesses through their involvement in domestic decommissioning is highly significant in developing UK capacity in specialist decommissioning activities. Much of the dialogue has been focused in Cumbria. Cumbria has developed its west coast economic strategy with support from the North West Development Agency, and is progressing its partnership programmes to deliver benefits in developing the UK skills base and hub of technical innovation that will be vital to the nuclear industry, compatible with the nuclear new-build programme and transferable to a range of other sectors. Will the Minister update the House on what activities his department has undertaken to encourage investment? Does he agree that the challenges that these activities bring require the development of centres of excellence, in which Cumbria and the UK could lead?

The report underlines the importance of concentrating on the accepted solution strategy of interim storage followed by deep geological long-term capacity. The Minister will understand that we regard the security of these sites as being of the highest importance. We know that he shares our view because he assured your Lordships that he was personally reviewing the security of these sites, including Sellafield, during the debate on the national policy statement on nuclear on Thursday 13 January. Is he satisfied with the operation of the current security arrangements and the management and operation of the civil nuclear police service? Is he able to update the House on the progress of this review? When does he expect it to be concluded?

The global market for nuclear commissioning services will grow considerably over the next 20 years. We understand that the industry is confident that it is leading the way in four key aspects regarding managing radioactive waste safely-namely, understanding the challenges, focusing resources, encouraging innovation, and driving progress-which will deliver a distinct advantage to the UK in playing a major world role and in securing future contracts. What activity has the

10 Feb 2011 : Column 435

Minister's department done at an international level to develop rigour and consistency in standards for nuclear waste storage?

We have had a very interesting debate on a subject on which your Lordships' House shows great expertise. It is a vital area of public policy on which we expect the Government to come forward with further information at the shortest interval possible. We greatly look forward to the Minister's response.

4.55 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): My Lords, I am very grateful to noble Lords who have spoken, particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Broers, who instigated this valuable debate, and to the committee for its work and recommendations. We have covered a number of key areas, and I hope I cover some of the questions raised, if not all of them, in my remarks.

We all recognise that radioactive waste management is complex and probably not the most exciting area in the world. However, it is a very complex and important subject, particularly as we move into the arena of new nuclear, which has not happened for 27 years. I do not want to underplay the fact that we have given the green light for new nuclear where nothing has happened in the past. This is a very big strategic decision, and I am glad it finds favour on all sides of the House. In the past, I have complimented the contribution by the now opposition Benches in changing public attitudes towards new nuclear when they were in government. That gave us a springboard, but we acted upon it, and it is important that that is taken on board. I also want to make it clear that the Government take these issues with great responsibility. Ultimately, we will make the decisions. We welcome reports and advice, and we are very open to them, but ultimately we will decide how to manage radioactive waste safely and fairly using the available evidence and analysis and the contributions that we get from all sides of the House.

The NDA is the UK's competent body responsible for that, particularly in respect of nuclear waste. The NDA reports to government. I compliment the previous Government, who sorted out a serious problem in the management of the NDA. I believe that the NDA is now a well run organisation. We in government have a great deal of confidence in it. It reports to me personally, I have an excellent working relationship with it, and I want to pay compliment to the work it is doing. As a Government and as Members of this House, we must trust and empower it to operate and act in this extremely difficult area.

I shall refer to the progress we have made on geological disposal. As all noble Lords have said, this is a timeline that most of us cannot associate with. I may be around in 2040; some noble Lords may not be. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will be. The noble Lord is quite right that, if we look backwards, 1890-when some of the noble Lords opposite were born-seems like an awful long time ago. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, knows what I am talking about, I think. It is a timeline that is very difficult to associate with and a timeline that we have to improve. It would

10 Feb 2011 : Column 436

be irresponsible if we did not. However, it is not entirely dependent on us. It is set by the co-operation of the people of Cumbria, who are critical to this process. Since we have been in Government, we have published an indicative timeline for implementation. As I have said, that is not enough. We want to reduce it. We have agreed to produce an annual report to Parliament on progress and we are committed to improving the timeline, which noble Lords will see as we progress. We have established the Geological Disposal Implementation Board chaired by my colleague the Minister of State for Energy, Charles Hendry, to enhance accountability for delivery.

We have carried out and have published the initial geological screening of the volunteer area in West Cumbria. We have supported the second round of the West Cumbrian MRWS Partnership's formal public and stakeholder engagement programme and have agreed a strong funding settlement for NDA in the latest spending round to enable it to make progress in this area. However, it is much more important that we send messages to the people of Cumbria that Cumbria can become a nuclear place of excellence. We have indicated that it can be the site for a new nuclear power station.

I shall come to the Mox plant later, but the hopeful signs of such a plant, which have been sitting in the wings for years, will give good encouragement to the community. I hope that the community will feel that we are supporting them and establishing them as a centre of excellence, and that they will respond by supporting us in the geological storage timelines.

On Mox, on Monday, I launched the consultation on the management options for the UK plutonium stocks. We have the largest plutonium stocks in the world, as the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan, has rightly said. I think we agree that it is time to get to grips with this issue and to develop a coherent, strategic and comprehensive plan for the future. There is no point in having this enormous amount of waste sitting there when we can turn it, we hope, into revenue or less cost. That is what the consultation will look at.

I have done some cost evaluations with the NDA. We have sought advice from a number of the experts in this field in reviewing it. Through this consultation process, we should be able to deliver clear signals, which is our ambition. But if at the end of the day that ambition cannot be met with reality of cost, of course we will not do it. As I mentioned earlier, it sends clear signals to Sellafield and the people of Cumbria that we are very committed to that part of the world.

The noble Lord, Lord Broers, and other noble Lords rightly mentioned the importance of high hazard. I was deeply concerned when I visited the high hazard sites and saw the lack of progress. As a result, the first thing I did in the spending review was to negotiate with the Treasury, in very difficult times, an increase in spending for the NDA so that we could tackle and confront these issues head on. We have reduced by two years the timescale of dealing with the emptying of silos. We should have completion of that by 2016 to 2018. This fundamental increase in timescale needs to be carried out because it is in the national interest. We are putting real energy and significance into this.

10 Feb 2011 : Column 437

The NDA is under no illusions that this is the main priority of this Government.

Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: The Minister made reference earlier to the ambition of creating a centre of excellence in the north-west and Sellafield. Does he agree that such a centre of excellence at present exists in so far as we have the National Nuclear Laboratory, which is engaged in fantastic work and will greatly facilitate the achievement of the ambitions that I think we all share?

Lord Marland: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan, for pulling me up on that point. He is right that a centre of excellence exists. There is no question about what he has just said. The most important point is that we continue to have Cumbria as a centre of excellence and that in times of recession that is put beyond doubt for the people who live there.

CoRWM has provided three formal reports to government since 2008, alongside numerous position papers and regular informal advice. The three formal reports cover the government policy areas of geological disposal, interim storage and associated R&D. I accept the important point that the papers should be clearly marked, placed and presented. CoRWM now explains the nature of its papers, but I take on board the point that was made.

We have responded to the reports and are committed to responding to all CoRWM's substantive advice. We look forward to further discussions with it and to receiving ongoing advice, as we do from all experts in this area, particularly the committee.

I turn to the committee's recommendations. We believe that there should be the right mix of personnel, as the noble Lords, Lord Broers and Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan, rightly mentioned. Over time, the precise skill set required may vary. We need to ensure that CoRWM changes correspondingly to confront the various issues arising out of contemporary nuclear needs. Currently, the committee is split between two-year and four-year appointments. We will look to refresh the membership in time for the current two-year terms ending in 2012. The committee may also co-opt additional expertise to support its examination of specific topics and utilise other appropriate means of securing expert input, such as sponsored meetings or seminars.

I return to R&D, which is of fundamental importance and again touches on the matter of a centre of excellence. We have instructed the NDA to reconstitute the R&D board and to co-ordinate an R&D strategy. I say in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that we will look at its recommendations extremely favourably, as we have done so far by increasing our financial support for it.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, referred to fusion. As he well knows-he asks me this as a trick question-

10 Feb 2011 : Column 438

that is not a subject for my department. I would be happy to go at length into the subject of fusion, but as he is closely associated with BIS, I can with great confidence expect him to discuss it with that department.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, drew my attention to a point that I had made on the subject of nuclear security. We are undertaking a significant review. I thank previous Ministers, including the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who kindly gave me advice on the subject. He indicated that we should consider a review of the current and future security of nuclear sites, because the issue is ongoing and we must make sure that they are fit for purpose. I am undertaking that review at the moment. It is throwing up a lot of interesting subjects and we will report on it in the near future. I assure the House that this is a high-priority item for us, and that I will be happy to keep noble Lords involved in any decisions.

In summary, I hope that noble Lords, and in particular the noble Lord, Lord Broers, do not think that we are sitting back and accepting airy-fairy timescales, or that we are not committed to doing things. We have increased the spend on solving our waste problems; we are attacking the incredibly long-term geological timescale for dealing with waste; we are looking at how we can make the best of our plutonium stock and turn it into an asset; and we are taking very seriously the high-hazard problems that we have encountered. I commend my fellow Ministers and officials for the great amount of work that they are doing. I also thank the committee and all those involved in the subject for the great advice that they give us. We have an open-door policy and welcome advice and support. This is not something that can happen today or next year; it is a 10-year programme that transcends governments, and all of us must work together with great energy and commitment.

5.11 pm

Lord Broers: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that encouraging response. I am particularly pleased that he has been to Sellafield and seen some of the problems, which has spurred him to action. I am encouraged that he has sought additional funds and that the Government are putting their mind to pulling in some of these schedules, which are-I had to use the word-bizarre in the extreme.

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken today. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, for his detailed analysis and strong support for the report. I thank the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan, who played such a senior role in the industry and therefore speaks with such authority. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, conscientiously follows all matters of energy and his views are highly respected.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 5.11 pm.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page