Wilson Doctrine: Armed Forces Bill

Mike Wood: Will the shadow Minister explain how we could have a credible nuclear deterrent if we were to have a Prime Minister who had already said that he would never use it?


Kevan Jones Shadow Minister (Defence)

It is up to the Prime Minister of the day to write whatever advice he or she wants in the letter to the commanders. The hon. Member for South East Cornwall said that our policy had changed, but it has not. It is very clear. End of story.

Labour Members past and present have contributed to the armed forces and I know that my constituency and those of many other Members make a tremendous contribution through their sons, daughters and others who work not only for the regular forces but for the reserve forces. I am proud to represent a constituency with a long history of connection with the forces, and long may it continue. I reassure everyone that I will ensure that I champion their interests and ensure that their welfare, which is important in terms of this Bill, is taken care of.

Kit Malthouse—I am not sure whether he is in his place—made an important point. The Bill refers to drug testing, but, as we all know, one of the biggest issues that needs addressing, which was an issue when I was a Minister, is alcohol. The question is how we address that, not in a nanny state way but by ensuring that people’s health is not affected by the drinking culture not only while they are in the armed forces but after they leave. Perhaps we could consider the question of alcohol and the armed services in Committee.

The hon. Member for Strangford talked about the contribution made by his part of the world to the armed forces as well as the idea of ensuring that people’s voices and complaints are heard. I, too, welcome the Government’s commitment to the service complaints commissioner.

We then heard three contributions from the Scottish nationalist party. I do not want to reiterate the issues about some of their points, but the Scottish nationalists cannot have it all ways. They cannot argue that they are committed to and want more defence resources for Scotland and then argue that an independent Scotland could produce even a fraction of what Scotland gets now.

I get a little disturbed when I hear the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife use the phrase “the distribution of spoils in the UK” to refer to the armed forces, as though the defence of this country is somehow about moving resources around the country in such a crude way. It is actually about ensuring that the country is defended and has the capability to defend itself. He talked about warships never being based in Scotland, but conveniently forgot to tell the House that our submarine base and defence are in Scotland and that that would be put at risk if we followed the proposals to abandon the nuclear deterrent that he and his party want us to follow. The Scottish nationalist party should be honest in this debate and say that what is being proposed for an independent Scotland would not have anything near the footprint or the proud history that is there at the moment. He referred fleetingly to the idea of regiments, and the idea that the SNP would reinstate all those regiments in an independent Scotland is complete nonsense.

Brendan O’Hara mentioned the White Paper on independence. I read it in detail, and not only its costings but its military strategy were complete and abject nonsense.