Debates between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 22nd Jun 2022
Thu 16th Jun 2022
Tue 19th Oct 2021
Tue 9th Mar 2021

Defence Spending Priorities: NATO Summit

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Wednesday 6th July 2022

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what changes to defence spending priorities they will make as a result from the outcome of the NATO summit in June.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, although the next spending review will determine the exact changes to defence spending priorities, as the Prime Minister stated at the NATO summit last week, we need to invest for the long term in vital capabilities such as future combat air, while simultaneously adapting to a more dangerous and competitive world. The logical conclusion of the investments we propose to embark on and of these decisions is 2.5% of GDP on defence by the end of the decade.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, I must first say that I am very impressed that the Minister is so on top of her brief; she read it just 20 seconds ago. The NATO summit clearly identified Russia as a clear and present danger. There is a danger of a world war at very short notice. The summit identified a need to spend money on defence. We need to spend that money today. Does the Minister not agree that we need to spend now? It is no good waiting for the end of this spending review. We know that we will not have a fully stocked armoured division available to fight peer-on-peer until the 2030s. We know that our number of frigates will keep falling and not come up again until the 2030s. We might well have had two wars by then. We need to spend now. Does she agree?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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To reassure the noble Lord, I tell him that the pack was read, digested and tabbed, but unfortunately it was not where I was. I was very pleased to be reunited with it. What we have seen with recent events is a confirmation of what was identified in the integrated review and the defence Command Paper—that Russia is the current threat. Therefore, the assessment in these papers holds true. However, we are not complacent. We recognise that the context in which we are operating is shifting and we are watching and analysing the situation. We will make adjustments where appropriate, but we should wait in some cases to see what unfolds.

Royal Navy: Ships

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Wednesday 22nd June 2022

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the recently announced Ocean Surveillance Ship and National Flagship will be built concurrently; and when those vessels are expected to enter service with the Royal Navy.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, with the new multi-role ocean surveillance programme announced in the defence Command Paper of 2021 currently in its concept phase, and the national flagship programme in its design stage, with a competitive procurement process in progress, it is too early to discuss build arrangements for the two programmes.

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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, five years ago the shipbuilding strategy came out, and I was impressed and pleased that the Government seemed to have gripped this very important issue. I said so on the Floor of the House. However, I said to the Minister that many times over the years I had been promised ships and had never stood on their quarterdeck. I have the same feeling with this. We have ordered five frigates since then and not a single other ship. Three years ago, we were told that we were ordering three fleet solid support ships. They are still not ordered. This really worries me. When it comes to these two ships, does the Minister agree that the oceanographic surveillance ship is way more important for our nation and defence than the other ship, because of data links et cetera going across the Atlantic? With the possibility of a world war, it is the sort of thing that Putin would have a go at.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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The noble Lord will not be surprised to learn that I do not share his pessimism. I am tempted to ask under which government regime shipbuilding was in such a poor state. Thanks to the national shipbuilding strategy, we now see one of the most exciting programmes in UK shipbuilding for decades. That is recognised in the industry—and in his single service. These are two exciting prospects. As he knows, the MROS will replace HMS “Scott”. I will not say that it is a Trojan horse; it is a sturdy reliable Clydesdale which plods away doing its work. These two boats—

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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The noble Lord manages to induce a bit of pessimism in me. These two ships are a very important addition to the fleet.

Ukraine: Weapons

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Thursday 16th June 2022

(2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the usage rates by Ukrainian forces of weapons supplied by the United Kingdom aligns with their predictions; and whether they intend to reassess (1) their supply of weapons to that country, and (2) the stockholding required by the UK’s armed forces.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, we liaise on a daily basis with Ukraine and continue to provide the defensive equipment it needs. The Defence Secretary participated in the Ukraine donor contact group yesterday and met Ukrainian government representatives. I cannot comment on Ukrainian usage rates for the equipment provided. The MoD continually reviews its stocks of weapons and ammunition to ensure that it can meet its commitment to Ukraine while ensuring that UK Armed Forces stocks are maintained.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, the usage rates by Ukraine are high because in peer-on-peer warfare that is exactly what happens. We have experience of that ourselves, historically. I am delighted that we are providing weapons to Ukraine, and we must keep doing this; indeed, we probably need to provide more. It is in everyone’s interests that that happens. My experience tells me that our stockholdings will be insufficient. There is no doubt about it. They always have been because that is the way you play games with money in the MoD. My question is one I asked on 25 May: have we let contracts with British defence firms, so that we are able to replenish our stockholdings and supply the Ukrainians at the rate that is required? When I asked this question, those contracts had not been let, and we were supplying weapons to Ukraine that had been bought by other countries in Europe because we were not producing any. We must start producing some of these weapons now, almost on a 24/7 basis.

Ukraine: Defence in a Competitive Age

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Thursday 7th April 2022

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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To answer the first part of my noble friend’s question, he will be aware that the defence budget will grow from £40 billion in 2019-20 to £47.6 billion in 2024-25. That significant increase since the start of this Government puts flesh to the vision and the reform and renewal proposals of the Command Paper. I think the balance is correct, but as I have indicated we constantly review that balance. He is aware of Royal Navy shipbuilding plans, the future combat air system and the new proposals for equipment for the Army. That all reflects a very healthy resilience to deal with threat, however it arises. On the matter of reservists, I pay tribute to my noble friend, not just for the role he performs but for his excellent contribution in the paper he produced on how we might reform the reserves. This is enabling the Army to move to a much more flexible, resilient whole-force strength, which, including the integrated reserve, will be over 100,000 personnel from 2025.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, the defence Command Paper had two major errors, caused by one underlying problem. It was wrong to pay off ships, aircraft and people—numbers of Army personnel—for jam tomorrow. Sadly, the enemy has a vote, and he might not want to fight us in 15 years’ time; it might be tomorrow. The second problem was that we have not invested properly in the whole area of hard kill—kinetic kill—as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton. Yes, we need cyber, AI and quantum, but people are being killed in Ukraine at the moment by hard kill, not laptops. The reason for all of this was a lack of funding. No matter what fine words are said, not enough has been spent on defence for some years. Could the Minister go back to the Secretary of State and say that, in the final analysis, with the possibility of war right upon us, now is the time to spend money on the Armed Forces? It is crackpot not to do that.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My Lords, I have huge respect for the noble Lord and his experience, but I disagree with his analysis of the Command Paper. Indeed, when he talks about jam tomorrow, I say look in the mirror and face the images. I argue that the budget figures that I quoted earlier to my noble friend Lord Lancaster reflect an extraordinary increase in the defence budget—I think that the noble Lord is unfamiliar with this and would have loved to have seen it when he held his former, very senior role in the Royal Navy. From what the Command Paper has outlined, it is perfectly clear what we have, what equipment we seek to acquire and how we seek to achieve agility, flexibility and resilience. We are doing that to very good effect. Everyone has been surprised at not just the swiftness but the substance of the response to help the Ukrainians in their defence of their country in this illegal war. The UK has played a strong role in that bilaterally, as have our NATO global partners. That is a matter for commendation, not scaremongering.

Defence: Type 45 Destroyers

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Wednesday 23rd February 2022

(5 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government when all of the Type 45 destroyers will have completed the Power Improvement Project (PIP) upgrade.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, it is planned that all six Type 45 ships will have received the power improvement project conversion by 2028.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, I have great respect for the Minister and her buoyant way of answering questions, but I have to say that with her brief she is a bit like a Tommy in the First World War being told to be go over the top. The PIP has been an absolute disaster. We knew in 2009 that there was a problem with our destroyers—we only have six of them. It took three years to work out how to resolve it—to 2012. It took another two years to say, “We will find some money within the programme to do this”. The first one went in for work in 2020, that was the “Dauntless” in May, and we were told she would be out by early 2021. “Dauntless” has still not rejoined the fleet. “Daring” is about to go in and have this done. One has very severe doubts about when this will be completed.

My real concern is that when you go to war, you have to fight with what you have, and it seems to me that when you have only six destroyers, if they are not working properly, you should be pushing as hard and fast as possible to do it. British workmen can do this. When I came from the Arctic down to the UK before the Falklands, they told me it would take 10 weeks to sort my gun out. The Argentinians invaded, a team came on board and said, “Skipper, we will sort it out in two days.” So, we could do these things quicker and we really must, because we are in a very dangerous world. In the context of this case, are we putting money from the reserve now into our military programmes to fill where there are real gaps because we are in such a dangerous world?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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Let me say to the noble Lord, who I thought was being somewhat uncharacteristically mean-spirited, that he will understand that the problems that beset the power propulsion systems of these destroyers have been long-standing—he is quite right about that. I reassure him and your Lordships that there is every determination to get these six destroyers installed with the power improvement project. In fact, “Dauntless” should be returning to sea this year for sea trials; “Daring” is already at Cammell Laird and programme conversion work on her will be carried out during 2022. It is important to say that these destroyers are hugely capable ships, they are universally admired across the world, and all naval operational requirements at home and abroad continue to be fulfilled.

Ukraine: Military and Non-military Support

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Tuesday 25th January 2022

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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Yes, I reassure my noble friend that any donations are made within the limitations of ensuring that we have residual supplies for our normal operational needs. These donations—he is quite correct to emphasise that that is what they are— are specific: to aid self-defence if that need should arise.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, the UN charter authorises the Security Council and General Assembly to take action against any nation that jeopardises world peace. What discussions have we had with our men at the UN to see if any action is going to take place? While understanding that the Security Council would be vetoed by Russia, there are other actions that might help and would show the opprobrium in which the world holds Putin’s actions.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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The noble Lord will understand that there has been a range of diplomatic and military engagement by the United Kingdom Government, not least by my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Defence and the Foreign Secretary. As to whether that extends to speaking to the men—or, may I say, women—in the United Nations, I do not have specific information, but I can assure him that the widest possible diplomatic activity has been embarked upon.

Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Monday 17th January 2022

(7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I wish to reassure my noble friend and the Committee that the spirit and intention of the Government is that scrutiny is important; it is at the heart of what they wish to see Parliament do, and it would be exceptional if scrutiny were denied. I hope that reassures my noble friend to some extent.

Moving on to the substance of AUKUS itself, it is a security and defence partnership between three like-minded, democratic allies to enhance security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and globally. AUKUS is not a new treaty, it is not a mutual defence agreement, and it does not replace nor cut across other alliances, such as NATO or Five Eyes; it complements them and supports their aims.

As your Lordships will be aware, the main effort under AUKUS is the delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine capability to Australia. In September last year, an 18-month programme of work commenced to understand how we can best achieve this goal. I want to be clear that Australia asked for our help in acquiring a nuclear-powered submarine; we are meeting the request of a close partner with whom we have a long history of co-operation, including on submarines. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, spoke with authority on our long-standing United Kingdom/Australia relationship.

Our work to deliver this capability for Australia reflects the unique level of trust and co-operation between our three countries, and we can rightly be proud of that. This will help Australia to fulfil its defence and security responsibilities and to promote stability and security in the region, which this Government strongly support. As your Lordships will be aware, we have built and operated a world-class nuclear-powered submarine capability for more than 60 years. We bring deep expertise and experience to this partnership, as indeed do our American allies. AUKUS showcases the UK’s competitive and innovative defence industry and our role as a global leader in science and technology.

I emphasise, because a number of your Lordships alluded to this, that the programme of work will be fully in line with our international obligations. Australia has impeccable non-proliferation credentials, and it does not, and will not, seek nuclear weapons. It is important to reiterate that the proposed submarines will use a nuclear reactor uniquely as a power source. All three partners take their obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty extremely seriously and have been in regular close contact with the International Atomic Energy Agency as this agreement moves forward into the next stage.

Let me try to deal with some specific points that arose during the debate. My noble friend Lord Lansley raised the Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement. We enjoy a close and growing bilateral security relationship with Japan. AUKUS does not replace or reduce the importance of any other strands of our relationship with Japan. Instead, through AUKUS, we intend to deepen, not limit, co-operation in the Indo-Pacific region. The Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement is for these Governments to comment on, but is a sign of their developing strategic partnership.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Liddell and Lady Smith, raised the transfer of intellectual property. The agreement provides protection for the originating parties under Article VIII. As part of the ongoing programme of work, we will further consider how to deal with the exchange of intellectual property.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter and Lady Smith, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh raised the important issue of international relations, not least with France, Europe and China. We fully recognise the French disappointment. We are keen to move forward and are keeping channels of communication open. As the Prime Minister said to President Macron, we are committed to the United Kingdom-France relationship and we believe in the powerful role we can play together.

France is an important partner to the United Kingdom. We have a long-standing security and defence relationship with France that is underpinned by the Lancaster House treaties and by us being close NATO allies. We continue to consult each other daily on international defence and security matters, and that defence relationship remains strong. As was recently illustrated, our close collaboration on Afghanistan and our military deployments in the Sahel to tackle terrorism indicate that we are working together and consulting each other, just as we are working together to tackle global challenges such as climate change.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, focused particularly on China. I make clear that AUKUS is not aimed at a specific country; it is about supporting our allies and promoting stability in the Indo-Pacific region. AUKUS will work to protect our people and support a peaceful and rules-based international order. It is about the long-standing and deepening defence and security relationship between the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter, Lady Liddell and Lady Smith, and the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, specifically raised Five Eyes. That remains a unique and highly valued partnership. We have been sharing intelligence to address global threats and support international security and stability for over 60 years. We noted that Prime Minister Ardern of New Zealand welcomed the increased engagement of the United Kingdom and United States in the region. We compare notes and work together as five like-minded countries on a range of issues and in a variety of formats. Of course, each of us also has its independent foreign policy and works with different partners and in different groupings, according to context and need.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked about devolution. In this context, defence and foreign affairs are matters reserved for the Westminster Government, so there is no specific devolved locus on this matter. When the MoD receives inquiries from representatives of constituencies in the devolved nations or from the devolved Governments, we respond and always do our best to co-operate and be helpful.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, particularly raised the nuclear aspect to this and the responsibilities of the United Kingdom, United States and Australia. I give the reassurance that we want to reinforce the global non-proliferation architecture and set a precedent for the future that retains confidence in the fulfilment of our NPT obligations. We regularly update the International Atomic Energy Agency and are fully engaging with it throughout the 18-month feasibility study. We will continue to be transparent and consultative, especially on issues regarding nuclear materials, facilities and activities relevant to the IAEA.

The noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Bilimoria, were interested in the inherent character of this new security partnership. That is what it is. I think they were seeking clarification and reassurance. This is a partnership focused on joint capability development and technology sharing. It reflects the unique level of trust and co-operation between the UK, the United States and Australia. It is about nuclear propulsion, not nuclear weapons and, very specifically, it does not include any obligation to consider an attack upon one as an attack against all participating states. That is not the character of this agreement.

The noble Lord, Lord West, sought detail about specific representation on various groups within the UK, the United States and Australia. I do not have specific information to that level, but I shall investigate, and if I am able to share information with him, I shall do so.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My other question relates to the fact that the Americans have nominated a very high-ranking person to drive this programme. It seems that we are allowing our National Security Adviser, who is responsible for all sorts of things, to do it. As we know, because of the sheer complexity of this and the impact it might have on our CASD, our nuclear programme and all the other things, having one person to whom we can say, “Right, this is your job. You’re responsible to the National Security Adviser and the Prime Minister, and if it goes wrong, it’s your head that gets chopped off” is the sort of thing we need rather than leaving it quite so loose. Are we going to do that?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I am grateful to the noble Lord for expanding on that. As I said, I do not have specific information and I would not want to mislead him by giving him some general position that may be completely inadequate. I undertake to go back, inquire and share with the noble Lord whatever information it is possible for me to disclose.

The noble and gallant Lords, Lord Houghton and Lord Boyce, raised legitimate and understandable concerns about how all this impacts on our nuclear submarine-building programme and whether it puts any of it in jeopardy. In relation to Dreadnought, I want to make it clear that the programme remains on track to deliver to schedule and within the original budget as provided for in the strategic defence and security review in 2015. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked about the overall budget situation. I gently remind her that the defence budget settlement which we saw last year is one of the most generous that we have seen in generations. That has been recognised widely and within the defence community.

In relation to Astute submarines, which, again, the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Houghton and Lord Boyce, were interested in, my understanding is that they are making good progress and that they are all committed to be delivered by 2026.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, also raised the 1958 agreement regarding nuclear weapons. He also mentioned other historical agreements which focused on nuclear weapons. I remind the Committee that AUKUS is commencing a programme of work to identify ways to deliver a nuclear-powered but not armed submarine capability to the Royal Australian Navy. That is a gentle reminder that we are dealing with matters of nuclear propulsion under this agreement.

The noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, wished to understand how all this relates to the Five Eyes defence alliance. Let me reassure her that that is first and foremost a highly valued intelligence-sharing partnership. Over the years, it has grown beyond intelligence sharing to respond to changing threats and challenges. AUKUS is an enhanced trilateral security partnership with a specific remit. Both as individual Five Eyes nations and as a group, we will continue to work with other like-minded allies, forming the right alliances to better face specific common challenges.

The noble Baroness was also interested in how AUKUS contributes to the United Kingdom’s Indo-Pacific strategy—forgive me for sounding hoarse; as far as I am aware, I have nothing infectious, and I tested this morning before coming to mix with you all.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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It would have been difficult for the noble Lord to corroborate it; I was doing it in the privacy of my bedroom.

AUKUS is a concrete demonstration of the commitment made by the UK in the integrated review to deepen co-operation, partnerships and engagement in the Indo-Pacific. We are committed to deepening relationships with countries in that region. By 2030, the region will represent more than 40% of global GDP, so the announcement is a clear demonstration of both our interest in and commitment to that area.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, said, “Well, this is all fine and well, and we understand what it means for the Indo-Pacific area, but what about everything else in defence?” I say to her that if we take in conjunction the integrated review and the recent defence Command Paper, not to mention the recent Future Soldier paper which was the subject of a Statement in the Chamber, we see in all of those, detailed information on how we meet threat, wherever that is coming from, whether it is directed at us within the UK or at our partners and allies. We have a clear plan as to how we think we should meet that, and it is a plan that will endure in the forthcoming decades.

This is an important agreement for Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, as it is for the wider issues of stability in the region. The noble Lord, Lord West, commented both shrewdly and authoritatively on those issues. The agreement certainly reflects the importance we attach to the area in terms of the integrated review—that was also recognised by my noble friend Lord Lansley.

Ukraine: Military Equipment

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Monday 29th November 2021

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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The noble Lord will be aware that we engage in discussions with and make representations to Russia. Indeed, the Prime Minister spoke to President Putin on 25 October and was very clear about the views that we hold. We understand and sympathise with Ukraine, which obviously feels vulnerable, and it is our duty along with our allies and partners, particularly in NATO, to provide support and reassurance. That is what we are endeavouring to do.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, the greatest risk to the survival of mankind is not global warming, it is an accidental thermonuclear war. One has only to look at the dreadful behaviour of Putin, not just around Ukraine but in a number of other ways, and his very loose talk about his de-escalatory policy of using a nuclear weapon should he be losing a conventional war, to see what the real risks are. I believe it is very important that we get the people who were around the table in Minsk when we made the Ukrainians get rid of their nuclear weapons who have failed since that time in terms of their handling of Russia. Does the Minister agree? We dealt with Crimea badly; everything that has happened with Ukraine has been dealt with badly. We need urgently to get back round the table or there will be a mistake—and, goodness me, that will be it.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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That would be a very alarming prognosis and a very unwelcome outcome, which I obviously hope can be avoided. The noble Lord is aware of the programme of engagement that has continued over a number of years with Ukraine. It is not just on the part of the UK, it is with our other allies, not least, as I said, within NATO. Ukraine enjoys a strong bilateral relationship with the United Kingdom; it is a relationship that we value and nurture and, as recent events have indicated, is it one that we support by deeds in addition to words.

Autonomous Weapons Systems

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Monday 1st November 2021

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I am sorry that the noble Lord is disappointed, because I know the extent of his interest in this issue. I have tried to facilitate engagement with the department to enable him to better understand what the department is doing and why we take the views that we do. He will be aware that international consensus on a definition of laws has so far proved impossible. At this time, the UK believes that it is actually more important to understand the characteristics of systems with autonomy that would or would not enable them to be used in compliance with IHL, using this to set our potential norms of use and positive obligations.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, nations are sleepwalking to disaster. Engineers are already making autonomous drones the size of my hand that have cameras that act completely autonomously. They can, for example, have facial recognition and carry a small shaped charge, and will kill a person that that facial recognition shows. Once you release them, you release them and off they go. The firms producing these are talking in terms of, “Yes, if we had several thousands of these, gosh how wonderful, because we could kill a great chunk of a city without damaging it at all and get rid of the people there.” I find this quite horrifying. Also, these things are AI: they learn; therefore, they will learn how to kill even more than they have been programmed to. This is extremely dangerous. Do the Government agree completely that, wherever there is a kill-chain that ends up with a dead human being, there should be a human somewhere in that kill-chain to make that decision, rather than a robot?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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All weapon systems, whether with autonomous functions or not, must fully comply with the principle-based international humanitarian law framework. A robust application of that framework, I would suggest, is the best way of ensuring the lawful and ethical use of force in all circumstances. That applies to all states that might be developing autonomy in their weapons systems.

France: AUKUS

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Tuesday 19th October 2021

(10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of France since the announcement of the AUKUS agreement.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, as neighbours, allies and partners, we have continued to engage with the French Government across a wide range of business since the AUKUS announcement.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer—what there was of it. This AUKUS treaty makes a lot of sense for the Australians. We often forget the huge sea ranges in that area. For example, it is 9,000 miles from the submarine building yards in south Australia to the Chinese yards; that is the same as the distance from London to Singapore. Nuclear submarines, not conventional ones, are needed to cover those ranges, so the Australians have made the right decision. Indeed, the fact that our three countries are working together confronts the Chinese on the grey-zone work they are doing against our agreed global values; that is a good thing.

However, it rather seems that we have left the French out on the side. They are very angry. At the NATO discussions this week, they were throwing their toys out of their cot. I would like to think that we have been talking closely with them. What I really want to ask the Minister is: are we still as close as we were in terms of Royal Navy-French navy liaison and the work that both navies do together, both in NATO and outside it?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I seek to assure the noble Lord that we recognise the significance of the French Government’s reaction to AUKUS and the strength of the feeling it has generated. We have a long-standing relationship with France in global security and defence; that is founded on firm lines, not least the Lancaster House agreements. We are both committed to the same things, whether that is NATO, Euro-Atlantic security or broader global security in the Indo-Pacific and south-east Asia. A lot binds us together. We value France’s presence as a defence partner and look forward to continuing to work with it closely.

Royal Navy: Ships and Frigates

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Thursday 14th October 2021

(10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they expect to place orders for (1) the remaining five Type 26 frigates, (2) the three Fleet Solid Support Ships, (3) the new flagship, (4) the underwater research vessel, and (5) the Type 32 frigates.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, the Ministry of Defence expects to place an order for the Batch 2 Type 26 frigates in the early 2020s and to award a manufacturer contract for the fleet solid support ships within two years from May 2021. The Defence Secretary has said that he aims to have the national flagship in the water by 2024 or 2025. No decisions have yet been taken on order dates for the multi-role ocean surveillance ship or for the Type 32 frigates.

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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for her Answer. Indeed, it sounds marvellous. Having a Prime Minister who says that nothing does more for the security of our nation than building a warship for the Royal Navy obviously cheers up a sailor like me, but the reality is that he made these statements 12 months ago and not a single order has been placed since then. I am scarred by 56 years on the active list of hearing numerous things told about ships coming and their never joining the fleet. The Government said that we would have and keep a minimum of 13 frigates, which is, after all, pretty damning for a maritime nation like us. When one looks at the order rate for frigates and the possibility of the rolling programme which so many shipyards need, one has to say that we are not going to have 13 frigates as we move into this decade. Can the Minister confirm that that is the case? I do not expect her to say how many, but as somebody with an intelligence background I would think it will be considerably less.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I have outlined what is currently happening. With construction of the Type 26 progressing on the Clyde and the Type 31 progressing on the Forth at Rosyth, we have, for the first time in 30 years, two classes of frigate simultaneously under construction in UK shipyards. That means that several classes of Royal Naval ships will be in build this decade. I would have thought that, to an old seadog such as the noble Lord opposite, that would bring a beaming smile to his naval face.

Sheffield Forgemasters

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Wednesday 8th September 2021

(11 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, Sheffield Forgemasters provides key parts for our deterrent submarines and, as such, it is absolutely right and proper that the Government should ensure its continued operation under UK control. This ensures sovereign capability, which is a key plank of the integrated review. In the light of that, can the Minister say how the Government view the large number of foreign takeovers of very successful, high-tech UK firms during the past few years and the possible takeovers of Arm, Meggitt and Ultra, which are being considered at the moment?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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As the noble Lord will be aware, the Government take a very keen interest in and keep a vigilant eye on security of defence supply. In relation to the specific issue that he mentions, the Government are closely monitoring the proposed acquisition of Meggitt by Parker-Hannifin. The Government have powers, as the noble Lord will be aware, under the Enterprise Act 2002, to intervene in transactions that raise national security concerns and will not hesitate to use those powers as appropriate if the UK’s national security interests are at risk.

Afghan Interpreters: UK Relocation

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Tuesday 6th July 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, I think it was Plato who said that only the dead have seen the end of war, and there is no doubt that our service men and women will continue to be involved in fighting in foreign lands. Therefore, as well as the moral imperative to look after locals who have assisted us and risked their lives, there is also a self-interest, in that we will continue to need such people to help us in the future. How do other NATO nations treat similar interpreters, and has there been any discussion within NATO to try to get a common policy on how these people are handled?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I would say to the noble Lord, in alignment with my answer to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, that the UK has very much proceeded on the basis of what it considered its obligation as a sovereign state to be. That is why we have proceeded with our particular scheme. I understand that the United States has a scheme. I am not privy to the details of that scheme but we are in close contact with our US colleagues. We understand that they are not only running a similar relocation programme but doing so under their special immigration visa scheme.

Defence: Continuous At-sea Deterrence

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Wednesday 23rd June 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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Yes, I can confirm to my noble friend that, to maintain the credibility of the deterrent and the minimum destructive power needed to guarantee that it does remain credible and effective against a whole range of state nuclear threats from any direction, an assessment has been made. The UK will move to an overall nuclear weapons stockpile of no more than 260 warheads—an increase of 15% from the previous ceiling of 225. I make it clear this is neither a target nor the current number of warheads, but it represents the upper limit of what we think we might need to maintain the credibility of the deterrent.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, for over 50 years, the submarine-based nuclear deterrent has ensured peace and acted as the ultimate guarantor of our nation’s security against nuclear blackmail. Those involved in this complex, difficult and continuous enterprise deserve our thanks. Does the decision to run the Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment at Dounreay in Scotland for three years longer than planned, to meet

“the need to support the extended scope of the operational work”,—[Official Report, Commons, 17/6/21; col. 101WS.]

mean that it is related to the life extension of the Vanguard class? As the PWR2 reactor will be running innumerable submarines for many more years, has there been any reassessment of the Royal Navy reactor prototype review of 2015 to see whether Vulcan should remain operating even longer?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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As the noble Lord will be aware, we are conscious of the obligations of seeing through the transition from the existing class of nuclear-armed submarines to the new Dreadnought class. That Dreadnought submarine programme remains on track to enter service in the early 2030s. There will be no compromise to the UK’s continuous at-sea deterrent. On the specific points he raises, he will understand I am unable to release specific information about supply, support and logistics. But we are satisfied that our continuous at-sea deterrent is operating effectively now and discharging all its tasks and, in the transition and beyond, will continue to do that.

Carrier Strike Group Deployment

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Wednesday 28th April 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I thank the noble and gallant Lord for his condolences regarding the tragic situation of the Indonesian submarine where so many lives were lost. I share these condolences, and I am sure they are shared by everyone in the Chamber. I was very encouraged to hear what he said about our own submariner community showing support; we are very proud of it for doing that.

The noble and gallant Lord raises the important issue of the implications and impact of the carrier strike group, particularly in the Indo-Pacific area. As he rightly identifies, there are strategic, geopolitical and trade interests there and, of course, the important alliances and partnerships I referred to earlier. He is absolutely correct that the countries he has described are important to the United Kingdom. We already enjoy very strong relationships with these countries through a variety of means, and I am sure we are always willing to explore how these relationships can be advanced and progressed. He raises an interesting point, and that is no doubt something that will give rise to further discussion.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, I congratulate the Government on generating this powerful force and agreeing to deploy it into regions of the world that are so important for our nation and for global security. They are also regions of the world where we are the largest European investor, and we need them for our balance of payments.

Twenty-five years ago in January, I was the battle group commander for a battle group of 19 ships which: deployed from the UK and went out through the Mediterranean; worked in the Gulf; flew the first operations in the Iraqi no-fly zone—only our fighters were able to do it, from the carrier; operated in the Indian Ocean; went to Singapore for a five-power defence arrangement; carried out an amphibious assault of over 2,000 men in Brunei; went through the South China Sea, Japan, Korea and numerous other countries; was there for the Hong Kong withdrawal; visited Australia; and returned home.

What came over to me then was that the Foreign Office was so desperately pleased with everything that was done in diplomatic terms and what it meant for UK Ltd. I signed £2.5 billion-worth of defence and other deals—not just defence contracts—and we were able to do humanitarian things in various parts of the world. The ability of a group to do these things is absolutely there. Just on the intelligence side of life, it was clear to us that the Chinese were very worried when they saw the capabilities of this group that we could deploy 8,000 miles away and carry out an amphibious assault. It makes their islands look a bit dodgy and they have to think about it. When I operated with 22 ships in the North Atlantic the year before, it showed the flexibility; these ships can get everywhere, and the Russians were very worried because they could never find us.

This is a very powerful and useful group, and well done to the Government for doing it. But I also say beware, because when I sailed from the UK in January it was a Conservative Government; when I returned in August it was a Labour Government, and my noble friend Lord Robertson of Port Ellen was the Minister of Defence, who was so taken by the capability of this force that in his very good strategic defence review he decided we needed big carriers. I am delighted we got them, because now we have them today doing this.

My question may be only a petty one. There is no doubt that this shipbuilding strategy sounds very good, but I am scarred by being told I am going to get ships but never standing on their quarterdeck. In each of the big deployments I did as a carrier battle group commander, I had two solid support ships with me. I notice that only one is going out to the Far East, and it is over 40 years old—RFA “Fort Victoria”. I ask the Minister: when will we actually put in the order for the three fleet solid support ships we need, and will they be built in this country? It is no good these things being put off. It is like with the Type 26s: we need the orders, and we need to start building.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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First, I say to the noble Lord that his youthful demeanour belies that he was commanding this impressive operation—I think it was Ocean Wave—in 1997. I am grateful to him for powerfully encapsulating the potential that a carrier strike group has. He made the point extremely well.

As the noble Lord is aware, we have a shipbuilding programme in place; he and I have exchanged views on that in the Chamber. I think it is a healthy programme; I detected from a meeting this morning that it has excited Navy Command and people there feel a sense of purpose and anticipation. I am delighted about that, because, as the noble Lord would agree, morale within our Armed Forces is very important. So I am pleased to confirm that.

On the fleet solid support ships, the noble Lord will probably be aware this is at a critical stage of contract progress, where consideration will be given to the award of a contract. I am constricted in what I can say about that, but he will know that the Secretary of State has been clear about his desire to proceed with augmenting the solid support ship fleet, and I anticipate we may be able to disclose more on that front in the not too distant future.

Defence and Security Industrial Strategy

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Wednesday 24th March 2021

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I think the noble and gallant Lord would agree that what was outlined in the Command Paper is exciting, not just for the UK shipbuilding industry but for the Royal Navy. The thrust of the security and industrial strategy paper is obviously that we want to be sure that we have a sustainable defence industry in the UK, which includes shipbuilding.

On the noble Lord’s particular question on whether we would never look abroad for a ship, I would not say that. It would be a very short-sighted view to take. There might be a situation where a product was available and we would think it safe to buy it without compromising our operational independence.

The classification of ships is clearly a matter for the Secretary of State to determine. I am sure he will do that on a case-by-case basis.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, I think I would give eight out of 10 for this. I am delighted that the Government recognise the importance of defence industries and the sovereign capability. But I join the broadside from the other side of the House—from the noble and gallant Lord—about shipbuilding. Some months ago, the Prime Minister said that there was a renaissance in British shipbuilding, and he mentioned a lot of frigate orders. Since then, there has not be a single frigate order. The Type 32 talked about is not even on the design board. The first three Type 26 frigates were ordered five years ago and the first will not be delivered for another six years, which is appalling. Have there been any meetings between the Secretary of State, the Minister for Defence Procurement and BAE Systems to try to squeeze the time needed to build these ships, which would make them a lot cheaper, and to get sensible orders in for the remaining five, driving the costs down—or are they leaving it just to run and run as a cash cow for BAE Systems?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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To take the last point first, no, absolutely not. While I welcome the noble Lord’s eight out of 10 for the report, which suggests that we are making progress, I think he makes a slightly harsh assessment of the shipbuilding programme. He is aware that we are committed to the eight Type 26 frigates being built in the Clyde, replacing the Type 23s and being in service for the late 2020s. He is also aware of the five Type 31s being constructed in the Forth at Rosyth, which should also be in service for the late 2020s. The Prime Minister outlined the desire to have five Type 22s. There is a steady drumbeat of orders and the yards are processing these orders. If I may say so, the noble Lord’s representation of the situation is rather dismal and not warranted.

Integrated Review: Defence Command Paper

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Tuesday 23rd March 2021

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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We are aware that much of the conventional and traditional format of the military again has been overtaken by technology. We have seen, for example, what can happen to traditional types of metalwork armoured vehicles made possible by the interception and attack of unmanned drones. We have to recognise that, because of technology, many members of our Armed Forces are now able to do things with fewer people that they could not do in years gone by. What absolutely matters is that we have the skill, resilience, flexibility, technology and equipment to ensure that our Armed Forces are absolutely able to operate at their best, and that means that much of what we depended on before for numbers of boots on the ground has been superseded by innovation and new developments. However, our Armed Forces will be crack forces doing an important job.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, the integrated review and this defence paper are extremely important documents. To pick up the Government’s wording, they are critical to the “sovereignty, security and prosperity”—and possibly the survival—of our nation. That is so important that to have two repeat Statements in the last dog watch, one each week, is really not very appropriate. I know that the noble Baroness agrees that there should be a debate. We need to push this harder. It is a disgrace that this Chamber, with its deep reservoir of knowledge, will not have a proper debate. This really needs to be pushed. The survival of this nation, possibly—its sovereignty, its security? It is not good enough that it is not discussed.

In the few seconds I have left, I will add that, after 56 years on the active list, I have often been told about jam tomorrow, and too often it has turned to margarine. I am very worried that the cuts we are having will not be covered by jam in the future. Jam disappears: it has a habit of doing that.

My final question is on numbers of people. Will the work being done by the noble Lord, Lord Lancaster, on reserves, provide the men who will be needed for MACP, resilience, disaster relief et cetera around the UK, because the regular services will not be able to do that?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I say to the noble Lord that business in the Chamber is not my responsibility; it is the responsibility of his and my colleagues, working through the usual channels. Your Lordships will all be aware that an extraordinary amount of time in the Chamber has, rightly, been deployed on the consideration of the consequences of a pandemic, not least in relation to health issues, social support and related educational and broader welfare issues. This Chamber has been coping with a lot. I have welcomed the idea of a debate. The noble Lord referred to two Statements in quick succession. No one is more aware of that than I am: tonight will be a busy night for me, and I look forward to further engagement tomorrow.

On the “jam tomorrow” charge, I would say that it is perfectly clear from the figures disclosed by the Government that there is jam today waiting to be invested. There is an exciting programme of investment, there is a vision and a strategy set out. I think it is relevant and, at last, meeting the threat that we face: that rapidly changing, very diverse, different threat from that which many of us have previously known. It is a new world, and this is an exciting response by the Government and the Ministry of Defence to that world.

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for his contribution. I am not terribly well equipped to deal with the specific aspect of his comment and inquiry in relation to Sri Lanka and the apparent lack of evidence that he argues is the case in relation to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. I can certainly undertake to investigate that, and it may be a matter to which my noble friend Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon might wish to respond.

As for drawing the attention of international bodies to the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill when enacted, I think—from the responses that we are aware of—that it has already attracted widespread comment from international organisations. I am sure that, as part of their public affairs monitoring, they all take account of legislation coming out of various countries. However, the noble Lord makes an interesting point, and I shall reflect upon it.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, taken together, many of the amendments that we have just discussed certainly seem aimed at emasculating and, indeed, wrecking the Bill. I have no doubt whatever that the Bill is necessary: it lances a long-standing boil and fulfils a promise to our military. The issue has proved too difficult to tackle, time and again, and it is about time that it was tackled. The Bill must go forward.

We need the Bill so much, and I think the amendments we have discussed should go. There are a number of amendments that will resolve the wrinkles, but is it not the case that we will touch on some of the things already discussed in later amendments, when there will be a chance to correct them?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his very candid assessment of both the situation that we seek to address and how the Bill seeks to do so. In my role as Minister for Defence in this House, I have certainly pledged to engage with your Lordships; it has been my pleasure to engage with a considerable number of you.

In my remarks on Clauses 1 to 7 of the Bill, I indicated that I am aware of the profound concerns of many Members of this House. I say to the noble Lord, Lord West, that it is my desire to continue my engagement. I shall listen very closely to the contributions during the rest of the debate on the groups of amendments that we are scheduled to deal with today. It is not a cosmetic interest; I understand the depth of concern, and, in reflecting on all the contributions, I shall consider whether some avenues are available to me to try to assuage some of these concerns.

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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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Yes. I listened very carefully to what the noble Baroness said, and I undertake to look at her contribution in detail.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for a very clear exposition of how one can get around some of these difficulties. I am delighted that she is going take this back and look at it, but I ask her to ask her officials: what are the benefits for the UK of excluding these from the list? What are we gaining by that? I used to find quite often, when I was standing at the Dispatch Box for three years, that when I prodded in that way, I would find that there were no benefits, but that they were defending their position wonderfully. I am not asking for an answer now, but can she prod that to see what benefits we actually get by not having those listed?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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Again, I undertake to look carefully at the noble Lord’s remarks.

Integrated Review: New Ships

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Monday 25th January 2021

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the statement on the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy by the Prime Minister on 19 November 2020 (HC Deb, cols 488–9), how many of the new ships have been ordered; and, if none, when the first orders will be placed.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con) [V]
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My Lords, the department is currently developing plans for a new class of frigate and research vessel to support UK interests. Following the concept phases, yet to be launched, programme and procurement strategies will be determined. However, the Type 32s will be UK-built—a clear demonstration of both this Government’s and the shipbuilding tsar’s commitment to supporting UK industry and to ensuring the Royal Navy continues to have the modern ships it needs.

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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. She will not be surprised that jam tomorrow has been a regular feature of defence reviews. I am concerned that the financial pressures the MoD is under, despite the welcome four-year settlement and additional funding announced last year, will affect build programmes and impact on the already small and ageing frigate force. The recent NAO review of the MoD equipment plan states that it remains “unaffordable”. The MoD estimates a £7.8 billion shortfall, but it could be as high as £17 billion. Leading up to the long-trumpeted integrated review, has there been any discussion about putting the capital costs of the deterrent submarine replacement once again outside of the defence budget, where it was until placed inside by Chancellor Osborne in 2010? It would resolve the MoD funding problem at a stroke.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con) [V]
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My Lords, all MoD obligations and commitments, including the nuclear deterrent, are budgeted for in the MoD budget. While I understand the noble Lord’s concern about the cost of the equipment plan, I reassure him that the department is taking important steps to address that. I think he is looking through his glass half-empty, rather than his glass half-full. Quite simply, the recent financial settlement for the MoD and the Prime Minister’s commitment to new naval assets mean that not only will our fleet grow for the first time since World War II, but its high-end technological capabilities will allow it to provide a better contribution and to retain a first-class Navy up to 2040 and beyond.

Trident Nuclear Programme

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Monday 7th December 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether a new United Kingdom warhead is required to extend the Trident nuclear programme to 2049; and if so, by when it will be required.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con) [V]
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My Lords, in order to ensure that the Government maintain an effective deterrent throughout the commission of the Dreadnought class submarines and into the future, the Secretary of State for Defence formally announced to Parliament on 25 February 2020 that the UK will replace its nuclear warhead. The replacement warhead programme will be delivered to a schedule that ensures that our deterrence posture under Operation Relentless endures uninterrupted. I am withholding specific information about the in-service date to safeguard national security.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for her Answer. I am delighted that we are pressing ahead with this. It is a part of our armoury that is used every single day in deterring, so I am pleased about it. However, I have great concerns about AWE. Repeated ministerial deferrals post 2010 have resulted in decay of nuclear expertise and cost escalation within AWE, as has been noted by the NAO. Could the Minister confirm, after the failures of the MENSA, Hydrus and Pegasus projects to deliver on time and within budget, and the scathing assessment by the NAO earlier this year, that AWE as currently structured is able to deliver such a complex programme on time and at cost?

HMS “Queen Elizabeth”

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Wednesday 4th November 2020

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to change the level of support that will accompany HMS Queen Elizabeth’s deployment to the South China Sea in 2021.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, HMS “Queen Elizabeth” will sail on her first operational deployment during 2021. Detailed planning continues, but we have yet to announce our programme or destination. A Statement will be made to Parliament in due course, once planning is complete. All Royal Navy deployments and decisions on support are planned carefully, in line with operating environment, and constantly reviewed over time. The first operational deployment programme of HMS “Queen Elizabeth” will be no exception.

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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for her Answer. We are in a dangerous world; no one can predict what will happen tomorrow, let alone a few months hence. There are real concerns about Chinese behaviour, and I believe it is right we should show solidarity with our friends in the region. This year, Australia has increased defence spending by a massive 70% and Japan by 8%—a seventh consecutive annual increase. Both countries have cited concerns over China’s aggressive actions. There is a need for strong alliances in the region. Sending a carrier task group is a good way of showing support, but we must not deal in half measures. Since 2010, our military has been grievously damaged. Can the Minister confirm that the “Queen Elizabeth” carrier battle group, deploying to the Indo-Pac region, will have its complete array of ships and aircraft and its air wing, weapons, weapons stocks and support to be able to conduct, if necessary, operations at every level of intensity? Only then can we be sure it will not be called upon to do so.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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As I indicated to the noble Lord, I cannot comment on where the “Queen Elizabeth” is going, how she is going to get there or what route she will take. All of that will be unfolded to Parliament in due course. But the noble Lord makes an important point about the purpose of our military and naval capability. Certainly, I want to reassure him that HMS “Queen Elizabeth” will operate as part of a maritime task group, which will include allies and will be tailored to meet the required task. The destinations and precise number and mix of vessels deployed will depend on the operational circumstances in 2021.

Fleet Solid Support Ships

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Wednesday 7th October 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the value for money to the taxpayer of building the new Fleet Solid Support Ships in (1) the United Kingdom or (2) overseas; and whether any such assessment includes (a) the level of tax paid onshore, (b) any requirement to maintain skilled jobs, and (c) any strategic requirement for a minimal shipbuilding capability in the United Kingdom.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, it is too early in the procurement process to assess the value for money of building fleet solid support ships in the UK compared to overseas, and it would be inappropriate to comment in advance of a new competition. The Secretary of State has already said that he will make an announcement about the progress of the programme during the autumn, and the criteria for assessing the FSS bids will be produced in accordance with Her Majesty’s Treasury guidelines on seeking best value for money.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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I thank the noble Baroness for her Answer. I am delighted that the Secretary of State has classed Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels as military. These three ships should have been ordered more than three years ago. I hope that the integrated review is concluding that our outward-facing island nation needs a maritime strategy as a basis for its national security. Will the Minister confirm that a maritime strategy needs ships, that the UK’s shipbuilding strategy needs ship orders and that building of military ships will be onshore?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I reassure the noble Lord that it would be a very curious defence capability that did not have a maritime capacity. As we look to the challenges of the global world in the years to come, it seems that a maritime capacity will be an essential part of our capability. The Government are aware of the importance of the UK’s maritime industries. As the noble Lord will be aware, the Prime Minister appointed the Secretary of State for Defence to be the shipbuilding tsar for this very reason. The challenges which the noble Lord articulated are recognised.

British Overseas Troops: Civil Liability Claims

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Monday 20th July 2020

(2 years ago)

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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie [V]
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Clause 3, to which my noble and learned friend refers, requires that a prosecutor must take into account the “exceptional demands and stresses” of overseas operations and the adverse impact that they can have on service personnel. While this requirement applies only after five years have elapsed, prosecutors may already take account of these circumstances in their decision-making at any stage. It is precisely to provide some form of protection for our service personnel and veterans and give them greater certainty that we believe it is important that the Bill makes consideration of these matters a statutory requirement once five years or more have elapsed.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, there are pressing reasons for this Bill, as military personnel have felt let down by successive Governments and the nation they serve. Historically, there was an understanding when one went into action that if any sense of doubt about actions arose, as long as one had acted with good intent, any balance of doubt would be in the service man or woman’s interest. That seems to have ceased to be the case. Even if that is not so, the perception was that our people are vulnerable to repeated litigation; perceptions are important. However, I am concerned about some of the wording in the Bill. Does it open up service men and women to greater risk of investigation and prosecution by international courts?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie [V]
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First, I thank the noble Lord for his helpful comments; he speaks from singular experience in the field. The risk that he alludes to is not likely to materialise. As I said earlier, the whole point is that the Bill is framed not as abolishing rights but as placing these rights for exercise within the context of time limits. It is not a statute of limitations; it is not a pardon; and it is not an amnesty. I hope that, with a strong framework in our domestic legislation, such a manifestation will be unlikely.

Armed Forces: Racism and Diversity

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Wednesday 17th June 2020

(2 years, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie [V]
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I reassure the noble and gallant Lord that various initiatives and programmes have been deployed within the Armed Forces to cover these very areas of concern. If we want to prevent this unacceptable behaviour, we must create a culture within our civilian and military workforce that represents, includes and celebrates all elements of the society that we defend. Within the MoD, we need to institutionalise anti-racism.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Royal Navy is very conscious of the need to tackle racism and improve diversity, not only because it is right to do so but because it enhances its effectiveness—and, at the end of the day, the Navy’s job in extremis is to fight and win. For the last seven years, the Royal Navy has been listed by Stonewall in the top 100 employers. It was recorded in the Times’s top 50 employers for women 2019 and in the top 50 employers for social mobility. Sadly, only 4.2% of the total regular service are BAME; a target of 10% intake into the forces has been set for 2020. Where do we stand on the Wigston report on inappropriate behaviours, dated 15 July 2019, what are the timings of the implementation of its recommendations and who is ensuring that they are implemented?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie [V]
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First, I commend the Royal Navy for the fine example that it has been giving. I say to the noble Lord that, in pursuance of the diversity and inclusion strategy, to which I referred, numerous procedures are now afoot to advance awareness, to educate, to audit and to monitor performance. As the Minister with responsibility for this issue, I am certainly very clear that I shall be driving forward these checks, tests and examinations, and progress.

Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy: Integrated Review

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Wednesday 4th March 2020

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the timescale for the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy; who will lead that review; and whether the members of the Chiefs of Staff Committee will be part of the team delivering the review.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, the integrated review will align with the comprehensive spending review reporting later this year. Implementation of its recommendations is expected to be a multi-year project. Further announcements and timings will be made in due course. The review will be led by the Prime Minister. It will involve numerous stakeholders, including the Chief of the Defence Staff and service chiefs.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. I am amazed that this highly complex review, which ought to be called the Johnson review, is going to have to provide answers about money, effectively, for this summer. It is also sad that its aim is not something as straightforward as ensuring the defence and security of our nation and people, rather three pages of waffle.

My Question relates to spad involvement. When I was a Minister for three years, I am afraid I came to the conclusion that most spads—not all—were a complete waste of rations. Very recently, a spad has actually said that this country does not need an agriculture and fisheries sector, which, in strategic terms, is totally bonkers. Can the Minister reassure me that this study will be done by people who actually understand geopolitical and geostrategic issues, rather than by weird—I use the word advisedly, as it has been used by other people—spads?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie
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My Lords, let me try to tease out a few questions from the rhetoric. First, we have to be realistic: circumstances for the United Kingdom have changed dramatically, not least because we have left the EU, but particularly since the last strategic defence and security review in 2015. What we are contending with globally is unrecognisable from what we knew then. If this review was called the Johnson review, it would be a very appropriate title because it is an absolutely essential response to a geopolitical situation that is fluid globally. It is an essential response to the need to knit together government policy for defence, for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and, of course, for DfID. That is a very far-reaching prospect.

I do not share the noble Lord’s pessimism about the timescale for this review. He will be aware that, in fact, as far as defence is concerned, a lot of the preparatory work has been done: it is there and ready to be pulled down and presented by way of evidence to the review.

On the matter of spads, it is a little unfair to refer to people who are unable to be here to defend themselves. My experience of spads is limited but essentially positive—they can be an enormous help in the discharge of ministerial responsibility. It is very easy to get cheap headlines by knocking somebody because of the way they dress—no doubt, I could be knocked because of the way I dress—but I think what matters is the cerebral capacity that can be brought to the role, and I am absolutely satisfied about that.

Afghan Interpreters: Security Clearance

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Tuesday 25th February 2020

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie
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As I indicated to the noble Baroness, in determining security vetting the Government will take account of previous loyal service alongside UK Armed Forces overseas. A variety of criteria are applied for UK clearance. It is for other groupings such as NATO to determine what satisfies them. On the point about thebigword and monitoring, I reassure her that the Ministry of Defence holds regular governance and assurance meetings with the contractor and has performance metrics in place to ensure that standards are met. On the intimidation angle, she will be aware that the UK Government have been at the forefront of providing support—and to considerable effect. In addition to the checks that the Government expect the contractor to carry out, there is an intimidation unit in Afghanistan, manned 24/7, to deal with any situations of concern. She asked for some specific figures; I will check Hansard and undertake to write to her.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, these people effectively fought the Queen’s enemies alongside us. Does the Minister not agree that the foot-dragging, delays and confusion over this is a terrible message to give, because our forces will again, without a doubt, fight elsewhere and people will not be willing to help them if they see that we do not look after them?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie
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I respect the noble Lord’s experience on such matters, but I disagree. The United Kingdom Government have effectively demonstrated that they stand by the people they ask to work alongside them in situations of hostility and conflict. Help has been forthcoming, particularly for those who feared intimidation: 570 locally employed staff have received support throughout the scheme, ranging from bespoke security advice to 40 locally employed staff being supported to relocate within Afghanistan. The two systems, intimidation and redundancy, indicate that a great deal of help has been available from the United Kingdom Government, which is something of which we should be very proud.

Defence: Type 45 Destroyers

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Tuesday 21st January 2020

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their programme for resolving the power generation problems affecting Type 45 destroyers; what is the anticipated timetable for fixing all six ships; and what will be the total cost of this work.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, the first Type 45 destroyer will begin receiving power improvement project upgrades in spring 2020 and will return to sea trials in 2021. Our £160 million investment in the power improvement project will provide increases in both power-generation capacity and reliability for the rest of the service life of the Type 45 destroyers. It is planned that all six Type 45 ships will have received this upgrade by the mid-2020s.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. Let us be clear exactly what this means. We have six anti-air warfare ships. Eight years ago we knew they had a problem: sometimes a total lack of power would suddenly happen unexpectedly. If that happened, she had no ability whatever to defend herself, to use her weapons or missile systems. We knew how to rectify that four years ago. Three years ago I stood up in this House and said we must do this as quickly as possible, because with only six we are likely to end up fighting someone and, as I know from my experience in the Falklands, if your system does not work, you get sunk, you have lost a ship and you have dead sailors. Quick as a flash, nothing happened. We are now getting something happening this year. I believe that the reason for this is that we have insufficient ships—only six of these—so the First Sea Lord cannot shuffle them around. They need to be used, so we have been using them even though they have this problem. There is also insufficient money.

One of these ships, HMS “Defender”, is in the Gulf. Two weeks ago something could have kicked off there and, under an attack, her system could have failed. This is an appalling state of affairs. I ask the Minister to push the Secretary of State for Defence and the Government to ensure that there is sufficient funding to increase the number of ships being built, so that we have enough to shuffle around and to do the necessary repair work. Part of the problem is that the Type 23s are very old and are having to be repaired as well. That is no good whatsoever. The Prime Minister has said that a strong Navy and a Bill are important. We must push this.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie
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I thank the noble Lord, who has made a number of points. I rebut the gloomy and pessimistic picture he paints. In fact, the Type 45 destroyers are hugely capable ships, as he knows. They have been deployed successfully on a whole range of operations worldwide. They continue to make an enormous contribution to the defence of the UK and to our international partners, and the Royal Navy continues to meet its operational commitments. As the noble Lord is well aware, the origins of the problems with the Type 45s actually go way back to the early 2000s, when apparently there was a dilemma about which type of engine to choose and a new type was chosen rather than a type with a proven track record. All that is history. The point is that the Government have systematically analysed the problem from 2011 onwards under the Napier project and have provided money for the improvement work. That work will now go ahead, and these destroyers will be returned to full operating capacity.

On the noble Lord’s broader point, I point out that the Royal Navy has attracted significant investment. Not only will our fleet grow for the first time since World War II; its high-end technological capabilities will allow it to make a better contribution and to retain a first-class Navy up to 2040 and beyond. That is something we should be very proud of.

D-day Landings Memorial: Education

Debate between Baroness Goldie and Lord West of Spithead
Monday 13th January 2020

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie
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The noble Lord raises an issue somewhat outwith the spectrum of my brief. I apologise for having no specific information about the property to which he refers. I shall look at his question and see whether I can respond.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister will be aware that in 1944, the Royal Navy had 1,500 major warships, hundreds of which took part in D-day. Can she confirm that any educational package will include the importance of maritime power for any island nation? Also, how will we explain that today this great maritime nation has 13 frigates—fewer than at any time since the reign of Charles I?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie
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I never cease to be surprised by the ingenuity of the noble Lord in insinuating into his questions important matters of our maritime capability. The content of programmes within the education centre will be for the trustees to determine. On his wider point, he will be aware that, more than 70 years on, we face changed circumstances and different challenges, and we have the advantage of vastly improved technology. The ships that we are now constructing are state-of-the-art in terms of technology. They are flexible, resilient ships, with versatile purpose and versatile use. The Government can be congratulated on a very innovative programme of naval shipbuilding.