The head of the defence committee, James Arbuthnot, said that he thought Ministers should rethink the cuts to the Army’s permanent staff in the light of Crimea. He said:

“The sheer number of the armed forces are much lower now than they should be in order to protect our interests”.

The Financial Times said that:

“A leaked report from the Ministry of Defence last year suggested the plans to restructure the army were in ‘chaos’ because potential reservists were being put off by a sense of gloom surrounding the armed forces”.

Can the Minister confirm this? It also said that Robert Gates, the former US Defence Secretary, has warned Britain that it would not have,

“‘the ability to be a full partner’ after the cuts because it would lack the full spectrum of military capabilities”,

and that:

“The defence committee report also criticised a lack of clarity from ministers in how to deal with cyber attacks, warning that ‘emphasis needs to be placed on ensuring that critical systems are resilient to attack and contingency plans for recovery are in place’”.

Can the Minister also confirm this?

The noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, mentioned clearly that when the cuts were announced, it was in a time of economic crisis. He has said that the international landscape is much more challenging now than in 2010 and referred to making a statement that greater military capability must underpin our diplomatic forces. The current Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Houghton, warned last year that Britain’s military could become a “hollow force”, with state-of-the-art equipment but no one to operate it. Even the Chief of the General Staff, Sir Peter Wall, has added:

“Ultimately history tells us that in some circumstances committed land forces may be the only way to achieve decisive outcomes in support of our strategic objectives”.

Will the Minister confirm that the cuts have all been about means before ends? We will have the smallest Army in 200 years. In 2010, the SDSR got rid of our Harriers, our carriers and our Nimrods. We have been fighting in Afghanistan and we have had one black swan after another: the Arab spring, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Crimea. What next? Can the Minister confirm that the morale of our Armed Forces is in a very sorry state and needs to be addressed? What about the esprit de corps? Could he confirm the state of esprit de corps, which is the essence of our Armed Forces? We are at the top table of the world. We have tremendous soft power, but we need the hard power and we need the critical mass. To conclude, as General Sir Richard Shirreff said:

“We all support the efforts to get the deficit down, but it is all about priorities. What really matters? Well, the first duty of government is to protect the nation … And the electorate need to understand there is no point in having hospitals and schools and welfare unless the country is safe”.

8.40 pm

Lord Freeman (Con): My Lords, I join many of your Lordships—in fact, all of your Lordships—in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, for initiating this debate. May I offer him some support? I think I speak for a number of my colleagues in saying that, if

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he is able to persuade the usual channels that we should have a full debate on defence in your Lordships’ House, then he can count on me to be one of his foot-runners on this particular issue.

I want to concentrate on the issue of the Reserves, the planned total size of which is 30,000. Perhaps I may say that my noble friend Lord Trefgarne, for whom I used to work as a junior Minister in the Ministry of Defence, will echo my recollection that if you go back 10 or 15 years what was then the Territorial Army had a trained force of over 50,000. To get to 30,000 therefore does not seem to me to be either impractical or impossible. I want to explain why I think it is of some significance and importance that we stick to that target.

My own experience, as president of the Council of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Associations for 10 years, was that there were some very important advantages in having what was then called the Territorial Army and is now the Reserve Forces drawn from large and small employers spread throughout the country. That is the first point: it would be quite wrong to ditch the target of 30,000 or reduce it in any way at all, because the reserves have a footprint across the whole of the country. With the Regular Army in particular withdrawing into a number of very large garrisons around the country, the footprint of the armed services could be reduced to our great disadvantage unless we maintain our target of 30,000. Even to speculate at this stage about reducing those numbers would send entirely the wrong signal about the efforts being made by employers. I am sure that my noble friend, who was responsible for liaison between large employers and the Armed Forces, will echo my point that it would send a confusing signal at this stage, when so much effort is being made.

I must tell your Lordships that the recent figures for recruitment into the Reserve Forces have begun to improve. If you go back three or four months there were some serious difficulties, but now the indications are that recruitment is better. We must maintain the national footprint of the Reserve Forces for political reasons—political with a small “p”, not party political—to make sure that we have the support and encouragement of our population for our Armed Forces.

The 30,000 target will include many specialists, and the nature of the Reserve Forces has changed over the previous 10 or 20 years. We are recruiting people with skills, whether in the medical profession or in construction, who can complement our Regular Forces so effectively and successfully. We have a five-year campaign running, and I am quite confident that we will reach the target. I am not in favour of sending the signal at this stage of reducing the target for our Reserve Forces to compensate for the need, it is argued, to increase our Regular Forces. We ought to stick to our guns—that may be an inappropriate comment, but I think it is true. We can reach 30,000 by 2018.

I look forward to working with the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, to secure a full day’s debate in your Lordships’ House.

8.45 pm

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde (Lab): My Lords, I join other Members of the House in congratulating and thanking the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, for this

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short debate this evening. Questions for Short Debate are one of a number of ways of probing and questioning the Government’s policy; others include Questions for Written Answer, Oral Questions and debates. The fact is that the Government have not convinced people that their approach and policy on this area are right. They do not appear to have convinced either the House of Commons Select Committee or experienced spokespeople in this area.

For this debate I turned to the recent report by the Armed Forces Pay Review Body, an organisation which meets several thousand Armed Forces personnel face to face every year. Paragraph 2.11 of its report states:

“There had been notable drops in reported morale from Army personnel for the third consecutive year”.

According to the surveys, morale has dropped in our Armed Forces every year of this coalition Government. Paragraph 2.12 states:

“Our visits took place amidst continuing high tempo, with much operational commitment at the same time as the impact of the redundancy programme was being felt”.

Paragraph 2.13 refers to:

“The continued erosion of the overall package, together with the impact of the redundancy process were felt to be adversely affecting morale, which was already considered to be fragile”.

The facts linked with that are that last year, mainly before these redundancies were complete, the working hours of our Armed Forces personnel were up to 47.9 hours per week. That is the average, week in, week out. The average weekly duty hours increased in one year by three hours to 70.7 hours a week. That is something that we need to take into account when we consider the wording of this Question and the assessment of whether we have sufficient manpower in the Armed Forces.

In my experience, any commercial organisation would make such fundamental changes incrementally: as you made one change, you would increase another. The Government have gone forward with these redundancies but have no idea whether they will ultimately be able to recruit 30,000 reserve personnel. I hope they are able to, but the transitional period between now and then is a great danger for us as a nation, as we have seen in the latest developments in Europe.

In a letter accompanying this report, the Minister said that the Government accepted all the recommendations of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body. Will he therefore tell us what the Government are going to do about the morale issue—some but not all of which is a direct result of these changes—and what they are going to do about the overall working hours of our Armed Forces personnel?

Paragraph 31 on page 11 of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee report, which was published on 29 January, states:

“It is essential that the MoD budget settlement allows for the delivery of Army 2020”.

I cannot find any overall commitment from the Treasury that has confirmed categorically that the money will be available for this. Can the Minister give us that assurance?

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The first responsibility of any Government is the defence of the realm. Does the Minister believe that with the state of morale and the numbers of our Armed Forces, they have the manpower to deliver that?

8.49 pm

Lord Teverson (LD): My Lords, I also welcome this debate, called by the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt. For four years, I was privileged to chair the EU sub-committee dealing with foreign affairs and defence and it was a pleasure to have my noble friend Lord Selkirk as a member of that group. I want to pursue some of the themes that came out of some work that we did on European defence. A handful of things have changed quite substantially over the last couple of years. First of all, there was the American pivot to Asia which sent out all sorts of messages, the consequences of some of which we may have seen over the last month. There was also the move by Russia, and we now have the first threat to territorial integrity in Europe for 24 years. There are also a number of smaller internal and ethnic conflicts, particularly within north Africa. I just want to take one or two points from each of those.

I do not think there is any dispute that the United States was going to pivot towards Asia, and it also has a defence treaty with Australia. Over the last six months, we have seen very dangerous issues within the East China Sea, the South China Sea and the Korean peninsula which show that we need to pay great attention to that area and that there needs to be very strong American presence, rhetoric and ability to act there. It was inevitable that the USA would move to look less at Africa and Europe, and that is not going to change. In 2011, we saw America leading from the back in the Libya operation and Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, has said that if NATO did not get its act together, its future would be dim and dismal. Perhaps this is what it has been shown to be over the last year—hopefully, that will change.

I am sure that as the noble Lord, Lord Soley, has said, we need to show more than economic reaction to the situation in Ukraine. This should not be military action at present, but NATO and the European states need to show strength and resolution. We must show that we are serious and that what I call the Medvedev doctrine—looking after Russian citizens outside Russia—is not acceptable to nation states west of Russia. About two years ago, when we took evidence on European defence, we were very struck at how the Baltic states and Poland said very strongly that they did not see peace in Europe as inevitable and that they feared the Russian Federation. How right they have been.

NATO expenditure has moved down from some 2.7% of GDP in the 1990s to some 1.6%. I welcome the major change in that direction, but there is always a time when that must start to reverse, and if there is a time when it needs to reverse, it is now. This is not just about expenditure as a proportion of GDP. Europe has 1.6 or 1.7 million people in uniform but very little ability to actually deploy them, certainly not without the help of the United States. We need to start moving forward with our European allies to change this.

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The Central African Republic is the other area which is very relevant today. The European Union is now sending a force there, postponed by three months, but the situation there is absolutely critical. This is telling, given that it is 20 years since the Rwandan situation. I was very pleased to see a press release from DfID saying that we were supporting security there, but we were doing it by giving £2 million to UNHCR. Quite frankly, what is needed is for us, either with the European Union force or with France bilaterally, to send real military support to stop the potential genocide between Muslims and Christians there.

President Obama said at the EU-American summit earlier this month that freedom is not free. That may be a cliché and it may sound trite, but I believe at this time that it is absolutely true.

8.55 pm

Lord Lyell (Con): My Lords, the thanks of all of us, especially from myself, are due enormously this evening to the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, for giving us the opportunity to have just a starter or taster of what we hope will come later on in the Session. He has probed what I understand may be fairly fertile ground with my noble friend the Minister, and we may have a full debate at a later stage in this Session.

Your Lordships may recognise that the noble Lord is a man of enormous expertise and competence. I know from my relations with him, and thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, and other noble Lords in the House of Lords Defence Group, that he is a soldier and a man of enormous charm. However, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, this evening, he is also a man of some considerable steel, and he says what needs to be said, tactfully but realistically. He may hit hard with the Ministry of Defence, but it is recognised with enormous gratitude in your Lordships’ House.

Thank goodness that I looked at the timetable and found that I had just three minutes—I shall certainly be under that. The text for this evening’s Question was particularly on the Reserve and Regular Forces. We have had notable speeches from my noble friends Lord Freeman and Lord Glenarthur on the Reserve Forces. In the various activities of the British Army in deployment in the past 10 or 15 years, the number of reservists who go to make up the total number of forces who are sent overseas, particularly Army, is one aspect—but there is much more. My noble friend Lord Glenarthur will know that it is the specialist forces, particularly his medics, who go for long deployment abroad and who bring enormous skills. Without their skills, operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere would be virtually impossible. Certainly, medics—I understand that there are engineers in other particular disciplines—have these specialist skills and are available.

I understand that three of your Lordships who have spoken this evening—my noble friends Lord King and Lord Freeman and myself—are conscripts who go back 50 years or more. As far as I recall, we were liable for two years’ full-time service and four years in the reserves. Certainly, I was never called up because I had a triple fracture of the leg that finished my full-time career; it probably would have ruled me out. I am not

7 Apr 2014 : Column 1229

too sure what happened or what the rules were in the late 1950s, and whether it was obligatory or recommended that, having spent two years full time, you did four years as a reservist and fulfilled your duties in that regard. Our current Army has 82,000 regulars, with 30,000 reservists—at least, that will be the target figure. I hope that that will be quite enough to fulfil national and, above all, international requirements, let alone responsibilities.

I salute and am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, for giving us the opportunity this evening and asking what needs to be done. I conclude swiftly by thanking my noble friend the Minister. The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, made a fair point, possibly, about my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. But I hope that he and the rest of your Lordships’ House, particularly those of us who have had the good luck to serve on the House of Lords Defence Group, recognise that my noble friend the Minister is certainly one of the most outstanding Defence Ministers in your Lordships’ House.

I have spent 41 years with the House of Lords Defence Group. I first went in 1973 to RAF Leuchars and RAF Kinloss. In all that time, I have known and learnt more, and one thing I have learnt is how lucky we are to have the constant support that we have from my noble friend the Minister and his colleagues in the Ministry of Defence. We are even luckier to have the support that we have had this evening from the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt. I cannot wait to hear what my noble friend has to say.

9 pm

Viscount Brookeborough (CB): My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association Northern Ireland. My interest in these affairs comes from the fact that I was in the Regular Army and then served in Northern Ireland with part-time reservists. I am now involved with the Territorial Army.

My few short remarks refer to the Army reserves and to the target of 30,000 fully trained Army reservists that we have heard about. I ask the Minister where those 30,000 are going to come from because, at no time in the history of the Reserve Forces, has the full complement been fully trained. In our experience, 30,000 members does not refer to 30,000 fully trained; it is normally 75% or below.

In Northern Ireland the reserves were fully recruited—and even overrecruited—until the introduction of Capita, the new recruiting agency, into this process. The Province also had the highest percentage deployment rate per head of the population but recruitment is now going down. What has changed? It is not the availability of potential recruits. The conditions of service are improving; they are even better as time goes on. Only one thing has changed—the introduction of an agency and the breaking of that vital, personal contact during the initial stages of recruitment into the reserves. The Government may feel that this is moving with the times and noble Lords may compare it with modern banking and the increasing lack of personal contact with the branch managers and staff. We all have to bank somewhere, so we have to put up with that, but recruiting of potential

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reservists is different. They are probably employed, live within happy families and are looking for a new dimension to their lives with others from their local community. They do not have to join, nor deal with the faceless internet, and they do not want delay and hassle on top of their daily lives.

Northern Ireland was 100% recruited through traditional recruitment carried out by local sub-units, through schools, sporting and other clubs, and through friends who might have been current reservists. This new system has failed to be user-friendly at the first hurdle. The Government must also adapt their recruiting of reserves to the changing circumstances of today. Since the Iraq war, the reservists have joined up to go on operations, but now we are back to a training role, and there is no impending operation, for which we are all thankful. It may be a different type of person who will be required. Different support will be required for their families and even more enhanced support for their employers who may be less inclined in the long term to permit staff time off for training and topping up the numbers in the regular units. This might seem a thankless task to an employer. It is interesting that, towards the end of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, when we used so many part-time people, not only businesses but also government departments, such as those responsible for schools, roads and housing, were becoming more and more reluctant to allow their people to get away. Perhaps this does not have the long life that the Government would like to think.

I suggest that the Government have a much larger mountain to climb than they realise. I look forward to hearing the Minister say how they think they are going to do it. Time will tell.

9.04 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, I add my thanks to those already expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, for securing this all too short debate on our reserve and regular Armed Forces. I endorse the tribute paid by the right reverend Prelate to our Armed Forces.

By now, of course, the key questions have already been raised, not least by my noble friend Lady Dean on the state of Armed Forces morale, and by other noble Lords on recent developments around the world. I wish to re-emphasise one or two points. I recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, referred to all three armed services, and that concerns have been voiced in particular about personnel numbers in the Royal Navy. However, I wish to confine the rest of my comments to the Army.

When the announcement was made by the former Secretary of State for Defence that the size of the Regular Army was to be further reduced to 82,000—some 12,000 below the figure stated in the 2010 strategic defence and security review—he did it against the backdrop of an announcement that the size of the trained Army reserve force would be increased from 19,000 to 30,000 by 2018. He has also since confirmed that the rundown in the size of the Regular Army was linked to the increase in the size of the Reserve Forces. That would seem a logical stance to adopt since the increase in the number of reservists should be achievable if the Government are determined to provide whatever

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money is required to achieve that objective, although that, of course, does not necessarily mean that sufficient recruits of the required quality and skills will be secured.

That policy has now been changed by the Government, who have repeatedly declined to give assurances that the Regular Army will be reduced only in line with the intended increase in the size of the trained reserve force being achieved. That decision raises important issues. The first is that the Government must believe that a Regular Army of 82,000 is sufficient to deliver the military capacity and capability objective in the defence planning assumptions on which the strategic defence and security review is based without any increase in the size, or change in the composition, of our Reserve Forces. If the Government do not believe this—I ask the Minister to confirm the Government’s position—then declining to make the reduction in the size of our Regular Army dependent on achieving the intended increase in the size of our Reserve Forces must put the military capacity and capability objective in the SDSR at risk, and with it our national security as well. However, if the Government confirm that their position is that a Regular Army of 82,000 can deliver the military capacity objectives in the SDSR without increasing the size of our trained reserve force, that invites the question as to why we are increasing the size of our Reserve Forces to 30,000, and for what military and national security objectives are we doing so.

The Government have also inferred that the increased trained reserve force will provide some specialist skills which our Regular Forces will not possess to a sufficient degree. If that is the case—I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm the Government’s position on that point—how is it that the rundown in the strength of our Regular Army is not dependent on the increase in our trained reserve force, even in respect of these specialist skills, if our national security is to be safeguarded? I hope that the points I have just made are ones to which the Minister will respond in his reply to the debate.

Finally, reference has already been made to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee. In a recent report, that committee expressed its doubts that the Army 2020 plan represented a fully thought through and tested concept which would allow the Army to counter emerging and uncertain threats and develop a contingent capability to deal with unforeseen circumstances. It said that the Ministry of Defence needed to justify how the conclusion was reached that the Army 2020 plan of 82,000 regular and 30,000 reserves represented the best way of countering these threats. No doubt the Select Committee’s point is one to which the Minister will also wish to respond.

9.09 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) (Con): My Lords, I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, for introducing this very important issue. I share the right reverend Prelate’s thoughts for those members of the Armed Forces serving on operations and, of course, for their families. It is right that we should do everything we can to ensure that our country is not caught

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unawares in the event of unforeseen crises and threats. The noble Lord’s Question concerns the sufficiency of our manpower. In addressing it, we should look first at the existing scope and scale of our commitments worldwide.

Currently, we have more than 30,000 service men and women committed on operations. They are providing significant contributions to security and stabilisation in Afghanistan, combating piracy off the Horn of Africa, countering narcotics in the Caribbean and keeping open vital choke points in the Strait of Hormuz. Recently we have seen British Armed Forces support the French in Mali. We have deployed HMS “Daring” and HMS “Illustrious” to the Philippines to assist in the humanitarian effort in the wake of the hurricane. We have seen regulars and reserves protecting possessions and property against the recent floods. In the past week we have dispatched a submarine to help hunt for the missing Malaysian aeroplane. These are examples of the activities that our Armed Forces are currently engaged in, and all happening in a period of transition. If anyone was under the illusion that the post-Afghanistan world would be a quieter place, then events in Syria and latterly in Ukraine have swiftly dispelled that illusion.

Several noble Lords, including my noble friends Lord King and Lord Burnett, asked about Ukraine. What has happened there is completely indefensible. This is the most serious risk to European security that we have seen so far in the 21st century. The priority now is to deter further Russian military action, de-escalate and find a diplomatic solution. The Government have made it clear that they remain committed to a diplomatic solution to the current crisis in Crimea and Ukraine, and in this respect are pursuing a number of diplomatic and economic initiatives, including targeted sanctions and representations in international fora. In terms of reassuring allies, the UK was one of the first to offer tangible contributions, with our offer to supplement NATO’s peacetime Baltic air policing mission. NATO will continue to provide appropriate reinforcement of visible assurance of NATO’s cohesion and commitment to deterrence and collective defence against any threat of aggression to the alliance.

My noble friend Lord Burnett asked about Russian defence spending. Russia has previously stated that it intends to increase defence spending. It intends to spend $650 billion up to 2020, including the acquisition of eight nuclear submarines, 600 jets, 1,000 helicopters and 100 warships, in an attempt to modernise its armed forces.

The noble Lord, Lord Soley, mentioned the next SDSR. Clearly the SDSR in 2015 will consider whether our foreign policy and security objectives have changed in the intervening five years, and the implications for our Armed Forces.

The noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, asked what we are able to do under Future Force 2020. It will enable us to conduct simultaneously an enduring stabilisation operation of up to 6,500 personnel, equivalent to operations in Afghanistan over the past decade; one non-enduring complex intervention of up to 2,000 personnel, equivalent to that undertaken in Libya; and one non-enduring simple intervention of up to

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1,000 personnel, equivalent to the UK’s support to France in Mali. This level of capability has been tested against a wide range of scenarios and a whole of government assessment of the likely future threats and commitments facing the UK. We are confident that it allows us to protect and promote the UK and its interests in an effective, sustainable manner.

The noble Lord also asked about risks. The Armed Forces are going through significant restructuring. Throughout this period, there will be shortages in some roles. However, we can be clear that there are safeguards in place to ensure that front-line operational capability is not affected. All three services continue to recruit, and the Army recently launched a major recruiting drive for both regulars and reservists. We are confident that we have, and will continue to have, the right personnel and skill sets to satisfy all strategic defence priorities.

Several noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Lee, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, and my noble friend Lord Lyell, asked about reserves recruitment. The latest reserves recruitment campaign began in January. All three services have used a range of advertising methods from radio, TV and online recruitment targeted at the youth audience to deploying uniformed personnel at prominent locations such as shopping centres. The initial response to the recruitment campaign is encouraging, as my noble friend Lord Freeman said. Local reserve units have been heavily involved in recruiting activity as they know their local areas best of all. From this, the Army is analysing the lessons identified and the reports of good practice, and is encouraging units to share and promote their good practice.

We have introduced a number of new initiatives to simplify the recruiting process. These include the revised medical process, introduced in January, and the new online application forms. It is still early days. The length of time that it takes applicants to progress through the application and training pipelines means that it will take a while for the actual impact to become realised, but we are very positive.

My noble friend Lord Glenarthur asked about recruiting levels against the 2018 target for reservists and regulars, and he also asked about retention in the regulars. The figures released on 13 February in the defence statistics demonstrate that the Reserve Forces are on track to meet or even exceed the interim target for April this year. We have always said that growing the reserves would be a challenge, and the start of that challenge is reversing the long decline in numbers. The trained strength figures are expected to dip initially because it takes around two years for a recruit to complete the training and join the trained strength.

Regular Army recruiting is forecasting a 30% shortfall in soldier entrants caused by a combination of factors. This is being tackled through an improvement to the recruiting process. This shortfall has been taken into account in our manpower forecasting and planning. Under Army 2020, the Regular Army is reducing from 102,000 to 82,500. Today, the Army has a shortfall of some 4,000 people against the structure, but this will be cancelled out as the structure is reduced over the next three years. Current voluntary outflow levels are

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above the 10-year average. The range of criteria used when forecasting VO is wide and includes economic advice from the Office for Budget Responsibility, historic behaviour and expected trends. The result of this forecast was used when modelling the requirements and it led to a reduced requirement for tranche 4.

My noble friend Lord Lee asked me about the carriers and the cost increases. Until a new contract is signed, the current agreement remains extant. This agreed a 90:10 share of costs. The Secretary of State stated in November 2013 that,

“under the new agreement, any variation above or below that price will be shared on a 50:50 basis between Government and industry, until all the contractor’s profit is lost”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 6/11/13; col. 251.]

The revised deal, including the revised 50:50 share line that better incentivises industry to control costs by allocating an equitable share should costs grow beyond the new target, is expected to be approved this spring, and the new contract will be signed on completion.

My noble friend also asked about escorts. The Royal Navy has 19 operational frigates and destroyers: 13 Type 23 frigates and six Type 45 destroyers. These ships are held at varying degrees of readiness. Three ships are currently deployed overseas, conducting operations in the Persian Gulf, the eastern Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Four ships are undergoing training in preparation for forthcoming international deployments or are held at high-readiness for contingency operations. One is conducting defence engagement in Dover in support of the HMS “Cavalier” 70th anniversary celebrations, eight are in routine maintenance in their home port, and three are in deep maintenance. I hope that that addresses my noble friend’s questions.

My noble friend also asked about Joint Strike Fighter dates. Initial operating capability for the UK’s F-35 aircraft is scheduled for December 2018, with carrier strike capability scheduled for 2020. I am happy to tell my noble friend that these remain on track.

My noble friend asked for an update on ScanEagle. The ScanEagle has been successfully, swiftly and safely introduced into service, fulfilling an urgent operational requirement. This day and night capable UAS is operated from Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels and provides an important uplift in persistent surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. It is currently in use on deployed operations, providing real-time intelligence to the ships’ staff and has already proved itself to be an important addition to our maritime capabilities.

My noble friend asked about the numbers of Type 26 frigates. The Government’s current planning assumption is the construction of 13 Type 26s.

I will do my best to answer as many questions as I have time for, but I am conscious that I will not be able to answer all noble Lords. I shall write to those whom I am unable to answer now and copy in all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate.

Several noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Bilimoria and Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, asked about morale. This is a challenging time for defence. Morale and esprit de corps are monitored within the Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey. We take this issue seriously and we are aware that we have work to do.

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My noble friend Lord Burnett asked about the Trident replacement. Over the next year the programme will continue to evolve as the submarine design matures. Detailed preparations will continue for main gate in 2016, ensuring that the design, costings and procurement strategy are mature. A further report to Parliament will be made later this year.

My noble friend Lord King mentioned small and medium-sized enterprises and their concerns over reliance on reservists. We recognise the contribution of SMEs and that Reserve service can affect them more greatly than larger firms. That is why we are bringing in employer incentive payments of up to £500 per reservist per month when a reservist is mobilised.

My noble friend also asked about accommodation in the UK for forces returning from Germany. The MoD has set aside £1.6 billion to implement the army basing plan, providing nearly 1,900 new service family accommodations and 4,800 new single living/bed spaces.

The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, asked about our resilience to cyberattack. Defence takes cybersecurity

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extremely seriously. Across the UK as a whole cyber skills are in short supply. The best way to address this is through a mixture of Regular and Reserve forces.

The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, asked about working hours and the minimum wage. We have worked to ensure that the sacrifices and dedication of our personnel are recognised. They have continued to benefit from pay rises and other benefits, including subsidised accommodation, generous pensions and plenty of paid leave. It is therefore entirely misleading to suggest that any of them earn less than the minimum wage.

I am running out of time. This Government have taken difficult decisions in order to preserve the sustainability of the Armed Forces. That was the responsible course of action. No one thought that the transformation of our Armed Forces to Future Force 2020 would be easy—if they did, it would have been done much sooner. The services are rising admirably to the challenges of change. They are shaping their own future while continuing to deliver everything required of them in current operations.

House adjourned at 9.24 pm.