Earlier this month, I visited British forces in Oman who are taking part in Saif Sareea 3, the largest western exercise this year, involving 70,000 personnel. As part of the same visit, I had the opportunity to visit HMS Albion, the Royal Navy’s flagship, and to meet the crew, who have completed a 10-month mission. That crew and all those I met who were taking part in Saif Sareea 3 are an example of the hard work and determination of our armed forces, representing Britain around the globe.
In response to a freedom of information request, the Ministry of Defence revealed that as of
As a Department, we pay above the national minimum wage, and I am particularly proud of the fact that we are the largest employer of apprentices out of all organisations in the United Kingdom, employing more than 20,000 apprentices. I will certainly look into the matter that the hon. Gentleman raises and write back to him.
Brief questions, please. A sentence will suffice, I am sure.
The UK remains unconditionally committed to European security by playing a leading role in NATO and maintaining our strong transatlantic links. The UK will retain sovereign control over its armed forces. The agreement simply allows us to work together when we think that is in our best interests. That will only be as a third-party relationship, respecting the UK’s sovereignty and the EU’s autonomy.
A short sentence, please.
As the UK is a signatory to the Budapest memorandum, what options are the Government considering in response to yesterday’s aggressive actions by Russia against Ukraine in the sea of Azov?
I think that I speak on behalf of the whole House when I say how shocked we were to see Russia’s aggressive actions towards the Ukrainian navy. Just last week, I signed an agreement with my Ukrainian opposite number on how we can work closer together, and we will be having direct talks to discuss how we can offer assistance.
I am sorry, but there is probably a lesson there. It is quite a crowded House, so Members need to speak up a bit.
The latest families continuous attitude survey found that just three in 10 families in service family accommodation are satisfied with the quality of the work and maintenance. Does the Minister now accept that his Department has completely failed properly to oversee the contract with CarillionAmey?
I half agree with the hon. Lady. We do need to improve standards. It is so important that we think about our armed forces. We should not only equip them well and train them well, but make sure that we house them well, and that is something towards which I shall continue to work.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his visit to the frontline in Donbass recently. In the light of the illegal seizure of the Ukrainian vessels yesterday, will he look to see what further support we can give to Ukraine?
The whole world is in shock about what has happened, and I very much hope that this is something that can be looked at by the United Nations in terms of what action can be taken against Russia for displaying such aggressive behaviour against its neighbour.
The national shipbuilding strategy is there so that we do everything we can to make sure that we have an industry that is competitive not just in this country, but across the globe, and that is exactly what we are trying to do. By getting the fleet solid support ships through international competition, we can secure a good price for the British taxpayer, too.
We are all incredibly grateful to the many tens of thousands of volunteers up and down the country who give so much of their time for this great cause. The Royal British Legion has been doing it for generations now, and it will certainly always have our full support in what it does and the impact that it has on service personnel and veterans’ lives.
Industrial action started today at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead, where almost 300 skilled secure jobs are at risk despite the shipyard winning two large Ministry of Defence contracts worth £619 million. The GMB and Unite unions fear that this is about the casualisation of the workforce. At this late stage, what action will Ministers now take to save these jobs and get workers back to work, which is where they want to be?
Obviously, it is disappointing to see that there is industrial action, and we are also concerned about job losses. This is why we were pleased to announce that £619 million contract as part of a number of ongoing contracts that we have been giving to UK shipyards around the country.
I have spoken to Gus Hales. I am very sorry about what has happened to him. I have also spoken to Combat Stress. We need to make sure that people such as Gus who have served this country are looked after. I will make sure that this is not repeated and, working with Combat Stress, make sure that his needs are looked after.
In a previous Defence questions, I spoke about the need for BAE’s Brough site to diversify its manufacturing in order to save jobs, and the Secretary of State told me that he had a meeting with BAE. Will he please update me on that meeting, and agree to meet me and workers from BAE’s Brough site to talk about how they can secure jobs for the future?
My hon. Friend has been lobbying on behalf of RMB Chivenor over the last year. I will meet him to discuss this further, as he has been fighting a particularly strong campaign on the matter.
As I have said before, we now have a national shipbuilding strategy that is ensuring that our shipbuilding industry knows exactly what the MOD will be building over the next 30 years so that it can plan accordingly and be competitive in the world market. Surely, we should be welcoming that.
May I give the Minister a second chance to answer the question that he could not hear earlier about veterans being given the opportunity to revisit the battlefields on which they have fought?
It is important that we give veterans the opportunity to return to the battlefields. I think that my right hon. Friend is referring to a return to the Falklands. I will endeavour to see what can be done, and whether we can use the air bridge to allow veterans to return to that battle place.