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Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on securing
this debate and on a powerful and telling speech. She mentioned the military
covenant whose words I would like to quote. It states: “Soldiers will be called upon to make personal sacrifices—including the ultimate sacrifice—in the service of the Nation. In putting the needs of the Nation and the Army before their own, they forego some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces. In return, British soldiers must always be able to expect fair treatment, to be valued and respected as individuals, and that they (and their families) will be sustained and rewarded by commensurate terms and conditions of service … This mutual obligation forms the Military Covenant between the Nation, the Army and each individual soldier; an unbreakable common bond of identity, loyalty and responsibility”…….

Lord Chidgey: My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, has made a
telling contribution to this debate based on the wisdom of his own experience,
on which we should dwell throughout the hours to come. I am sure that your
Lordships’ House will want me to pass on good wishes for the speedy recovery of
my noble friend Lord Lee of Trafford, while he recuperates in hospital. He will
be disappointed not to be here today to follow the speech that he made in the
debate on the gracious Address when he focused on the key issues, as appears to
be well known.

From almost every quarter in the defence and security world, whether from
defence analysts, think tanks and institutes or military personnel, warning
bells are ringing. There are growing concerns that our Armed Forces are unable
to sustain the tasks required of them to respond to government policy. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, made the point that the covenant with the Armed
Forces is an essential part of our relationship with them. If we choose to have
Armed Forces that are prepared to engage in this difficult, tough and challenging campaign—to be war fighters as well as peace makers—then, in
recognising that this is a new situation for our Armed Forces, we must recognise that new commitments are necessary to make it work and to make it fair. The
covenant between the Armed Forces, the Government and the people must be renewed. For our part, in government, our former Prime Minister said that it
will mean increased expenditure on equipment, personnel and the conditions of
our Armed Forces—not in the short run, but for the long term. That is the nub of the debate today: whether the commitment made by our Government on behalf of the nation, and subsequently endorsed by both the former and current Prime Ministers is being met in reality. An increasing body of informed and expert opinion is telling us that it is not. British forces are now suffering critical overstretch due to the mismatch between resources, capabilities and commitments. They were suffering even before the Iraq war and, we are told by many, are now stretched to breaking point. For example, General Sir Richard Dannatt said in July: “The enduring nature and scale of current operations continues to stretch people … we now have almost no capability to react to the unexpected”, and that reinforcements for emergencies or operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are now “almost non-existent”.

That was in late July, and of course the Government may well now claim that the
situation has moved on, with troops being withdrawn from Iraq and reinforcements
being deployed in Afghanistan and so on. But the bald facts, according to the
RUSI Acquisition Focus of spring 2007, are that the Government’s defence
planning assumptions, on which the defence budget is based, have been exceeded
for at least the past seven years. Experts will of course tell us that it does
not matter too much if we exceed the planning expectations for maybe one or two
years. But this has been a continual problem for at least

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