In the space of seven days, I had the opportunity to work alongside more than 80 Governments—nearly half the entire membership of the United Nations—and to hold bilateral talks with more than 25 leaders, ranging from the new Presidents of South Korea and Zambia to the Prime Ministers of Japan and Jamaica, demonstrating the global reach of British diplomacy and the value of our presence at the world’s top tables.
Our immediate priority is to join with our allies to ensure that Ukraine prevails in her brave struggle against Putin’s aggression. At the Madrid summit, NATO exceeded all expectations in the unity and single-minded resolve of the alliance to support Ukraine for as long as it takes, and to explode the myth that western democracies lack the staying power for a prolonged crisis.
All of us understand that if Putin is not stopped in Ukraine, he will find new targets for his revanchist attacks. We are defending not some abstract ideal but the first principle of a peaceful world, which is that large and powerful countries cannot be allowed to dismember their neighbours, and if this was ever permitted, no nation anywhere would be safe. Therefore our goal must be for our Ukrainian friends to win, by which I mean that Ukraine must have the strength to finish this war on the terms that President Zelensky has described.
When Putin claimed that by invading his neighbour he would force NATO away from Russia, he could not have been proved more spectacularly wrong, because the single most welcome outcome of the Madrid summit was the alliance’s agreement to admit Finland and Sweden. I hope I speak for the whole House when I say that Britain will be proud to stand alongside these fellow democracies and reaffirm our unshakeable pledge to come to their aid and defend them if ever necessary, just as they would for us. We were glad to smooth their path into NATO by giving both nations the security assurances they needed to apply for membership, and when I met Prime Minister Andersson of Sweden and President Niinistö of Finland last Wednesday, I told them I was certain that NATO would be stronger and safer for their accession.
Before Putin’s onslaught, both countries had prized their neutrality, even through all the crises of the cold war, and it is a measure of how seriously they take today’s threat that opinion in Sweden and Finland has been transformed. It speaks volumes about Putin’s folly that one permanent consequence of his attack on Ukraine will be a doubling of the length of NATO’s border with Russia. If anyone needed proof that NATO is purely defensive, the fact that two quintessentially peaceable countries have chosen to join it demonstrates the true nature of our alliance.
Now is the time to intensify our help for Ukraine, because Putin’s Donbas offensive is slowing down and his overstretched army is suffering heavy casualties. Ukraine’s success in forcing the Russians off Snake Island by sheer weight of firepower shows how difficult the invader will find it to hold the territory he has overrun. We need to equip our friends now to take advantage of the moment when Putin will have to pause and regroup, so Britain will supply Ukraine with another £1 billion of military aid, including air defences, drones and electronic warfare equipment, bringing our total military, humanitarian and economic support since
To guarantee the security of our allies on the eastern flank, NATO agreed in Madrid to bolster its high readiness forces, and we in the UK will offer even more British forces to the alliance, including almost all of our surface fleet. We have already doubled our deployment in Estonia, and we will upgrade our national headquarters to be led by a brigadier and help our Estonian friends to establish their own divisional headquarters. If you follow the trajectory of our programmes to modernise our armed forces, Mr Speaker, you will draw the logical conclusion that the UK will likely be spending 2.5% of GDP on defence by the end of this decade.
Earlier, at the G7 summit, the first full day of talks coincided with a Russian missile destroying a Ukrainian shopping centre, killing at least 18 people. This barbaric attack on an obviously civilian target strengthened the resolve of my fellow leaders to provide Ukraine with more financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic backing for, and I quote the communiqué,
“as long as it takes”.
That is exactly the term later echoed by NATO. The G7 has pledged nearly $30 billion of financial support for Ukraine this year, and we will tighten our sanctions on Russia. The UK will join America, Japan and Canada to ban the import of Russian gold, which previously raised more export revenues than anything else except hydrocarbons.
The G7 will devise more options for ensuring that nearly 25 million tonnes of grain, trapped inside Ukraine by Putin’s blockade, reaches the countries that rely on these supplies. Just as the world economy was recovering from the pandemic, Putin’s war has caused a surge in global food and energy prices, raising the cost of living everywhere, including here at home. The G7 agreed to
“take immediate action to secure energy supply and reduce price surges…including by exploring additional measures such as price caps.”
We will help our partners in the developing world to meet their climate targets and transform millions of lives by constructing new infrastructure according to the highest standards of transparency and environmental protection. Through our Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, an idea launched by the UK at the Carbis Bay summit last year, we will mobilise up to $600 billion of public and private investment over the next five years.
Many beneficiary nations will be members of the Commonwealth, and I was very pleased to attend the Kigali summit of this unique association of 56 states, encompassing a third of humanity. More countries are eager to join, and we were pleased to welcome two new members, Gabon and Togo.
It is an amazing fact that our familiar legal and administrative systems, combined with the English language, knock 21% off the cost of trade between Commonwealth members. It is because the Commonwealth unites that advantage with some of the fastest-growing markets in the world that we are using the sovereignty that the UK has regained to sign free trade or economic partnership agreements with as many Commonwealth countries as possible. We have done 33 so far, including with Australia and New Zealand, and we are aiming for one with India by Diwali in October.
It is true that not every member of the Commonwealth sees Putin’s aggression as we do, or exactly as we do, so it was vital to have the opportunity to counter the myths and to point out that food prices are rising because Putin has blockaded one of the world’s biggest food producers. If large countries were free to destroy their neighbours, no Commonwealth member, however distant from Ukraine, would be genuinely secure.
The fact that, in a week, the UK was able to deal on friendly terms with scores of countries in three organisations shows the extraordinary diplomatic assets our country possesses. As we stand up for what is right in Ukraine and advance the values and interests of the British people, I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for the advance copy of his statement, and I welcome him back to these shores. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, so I wish him the best of luck in seeing if that works as a party management strategy.
It has been 131 days since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, 131 days of war at the heart of our continent, 131 days of Putin trying to make his neighbours cower and 131 days of brave Ukrainian resistance. I have always said that this House, and Britain’s allies, must put aside our differences in other areas and show unity in our opposition to Putin’s aggression. And we have done, driven by the inspiration provided by the people of Ukraine and the leadership and courage of President Zelensky.
As this conflict reaches its sixth month and drags on in eastern Ukraine, it is important that we do not think our job is done. Putin would like nothing better than for us to lose our focus, for the grip of sanctions to weaken, for military aid to Ukraine to dry up or for cracks to appear in the unity of his opponents. So I welcome the progress made at the NATO summit last week, and congratulate our good friends in Finland and Sweden on their formal invitation to join the NATO alliance, and of course Ukraine on securing its candidate status to join the European Union. I hope that these processes can be concluded as quickly as possible to send a clear message to Putin that his war has permanently changed the European landscape, but not in the way he planned.
I also welcome the commitment to strengthen our collective deterrent capabilities. I have seen at first hand how British personnel are working with other NATO forces to ensure that the collective shield that has protected us for three quarters of a century remains as strong as ever. So I welcome the agreement on the new NATO force model, ensuring that over 300,000 conventional troops will be at high readiness across Europe. Can I ask the Prime Minister how this agreement will affect British military planning and whether he believes our extra commitments can be met, given his cuts to UK troop numbers?
The commitment made at the G7 of further financial support for Ukraine is also welcome, as are plans to help Ukraine with post-war reconstruction through an international conference. There can be no clearer case that aid spending makes Britain more secure and prevents the need for military spending in future, which demonstrates the folly in reducing our aid commitments at a time of global instability.
I am pleased that unity was on display at both the NATO summit and the G7 summit, but I am concerned about current unity within the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is a valuable and important institution for this country. It is not just a symbol of our past; it is important for our future, providing us with influence in all parts of the world. But in recent years, there have been serious signs of strain. When many major Commonwealth countries abstained at the UN over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the summit should have been an opportunity to widen the diplomatic coalition against Putin. Instead, the Prime Minister waged a divisive campaign against the Commonwealth leadership that ended in a humiliating diplomatic failure, only illustrating his embarrassing lack of influence.
Instead of investing in aid that strengthens the alliance, the Prime Minister has cut it. Instead of upholding the rule of law that should define the Commonwealth, he reneges on treaties he has signed, undermining Britain’s moral and political credibility, when we need our word to carry trust. My fear is simple: the vacuum we leave behind will be quickly filled not by those who share our values, but by those who seek to destroy them. We cannot let that happen in Ukraine. We cannot let that happen anywhere.
I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the terms in which he, broadly speaking, has addressed the UK’s recent diplomatic activity. I have just a couple of points to come back on. He talks about the UK breaking international treaties. I do not know what he is talking about there, but if he was talking about what we are doing in respect of the Northern Ireland protocol, that is not what is happening. We believe that our prior obligation, which I would have thought he supported, is to the balance of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. That is what we are supporting. He talks about the UK’s ability to win people over. It was striking in the conversations I had with leaders from around the world how few of them, if any, raised the issue of the Northern Ireland protocol, and how much people want to see common sense and no new barriers to trade. What the UK is doing is trying to reduce pointless barriers to trade and one would have thought that he supported that.
On the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s points about the UK’s contribution to NATO and to the new force model, and whether that is sustainable, I suggest that Opposition Members should talk to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg about what the UK is producing and committing—it is colossal. We are the second biggest contributor to NATO and the second biggest contributor of overall support for the Ukrainians, providing £2.3 billion in military assistance alone. We are also ensuring that our armed forces are provided for for the future, with £24 billion in this spending review—the biggest uplift in defence spending since the cold war. Defence spending is now running at 2.3% of our national GDP, which is above the 2% target. That is felt around the room in NATO; people know what the UK is contributing and are extremely grateful.
As for what the UK also contributes to NATO, under the new force model, we will contribute virtually all our naval forces. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman also knows, we are the only country to contribute our strategic independent nuclear deterrent to NATO. I still find it a sad reflection of the Labour party that, at this critical time, when Vladimir Putin is sadly using the language of nuclear blackmail, we are in a situation in which the principal Opposition party in this country still has eight Members on its Front Bench who voted to discard our independent nuclear deterrent, including the shadow Foreign Secretary, Mr Lammy. Apart from that, I welcome the terms in which the Leader of the Opposition has responded.
I very much welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. I ask him: was there general agreement at all three summits that our fragile rules-based order is under threat, and that strategically we have entered a profound era of geopolitical change? I commend his efforts in Ukraine—it is a shame that other NATO countries have not lent as we have—but I encourage him to go further and secure a UN General Assembly resolution to create a humanitarian safe haven around the critical port of Odesa, so that vital grain exports can reach not only Europe, but Africa, to prevent famine there.
I thank my right hon. Friend particularly for his point about grain exports. As he knows, the work is being led by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The UK is doing a huge amount to support but, as I have told the House before, we may have to prepare for a solution that does not depend on Russian consent, because that may not be forthcoming.
I thank the Prime Minister for the advance copy of his statement, and welcome him back from his travels around Africa and Europe. It is perhaps worth reiterating the support of all of us in this House for President Zelensky and Ukraine in their struggle against the war criminal Putin.
The scale and depth of the challenge facing our global community are self-evident: war in Europe, the return of soaring inflation, rising interest rates, and a cost of living crisis that is punishing people in the pocket. We are faced not just with one crisis; this is an accumulation of crises that needs, deserves and demands a collective response. At moments like this, solutions can only come from a co-ordinated effort. Efforts during the 2007 financial crisis and the co-ordination during covid demonstrate just that right across the world, and none of us should be in any doubt that the crisis that we are now in is every bit as severe, steep and deep as anything we faced at the time of the financial crisis.
I regret to say that so far the collective effort—that sense of urgency—has been badly lacking, particularly from organisations such as the G7. The response has been far too slow and far too small. Prime Minister, it is obvious that the G7 outcomes are nowhere near enough to combat the cost of living crisis that we now face. When can the public expect some leadership and action? When will we see a coherent, co-ordinated and credible plan to increase energy supply, cap prices and drive investment to the global economy before recession becomes inevitable, or is the plan really to delay until the winter, when things will only get worse? Leadership now, in responding to supply shocks, will allow us to fight inflation. A failure to take appropriate action will expose us all to longer-lasting inflationary risks.
On Ukraine, can the Prime Minister go a little further and give us the outlook regarding what we will do to ensure that we can get grain out of Ukrainian ports? Four hundred million people worldwide rely on Ukrainian food supplies. This is now about stopping not just war, but famine.
I am sure the Prime Minister will agree that all these global efforts will work only if there is trust between global leaders. Can the Prime Minister therefore explain, in this moment of many crises, how breaking international law and threatening to start a trade war with our neighbours helps anyone?
The right hon. Gentleman should look more carefully at what the G7 produced in terms of the plan to cap prices for oil and gas and particularly to try to stop Putin profiteering, as he currently is, from his illegal war. There is a plan. I will not pretend that it is going to be easy, but we are doing as much as we can. We are certainly taking a lot of other action, for instance, to help countries around the world with access to the fertiliser they need. He is right to raise the issue of the 25 million tonnes of grain currently held hostage in Odesa. There is a plan to get that out. It is not easy. If he looks at the numbers, though, he will see that we are gradually getting more grain out of those Ukrainian silos and into Europe and into Africa, and we will continue to do that.
As for the right hon. Gentleman’s final point about the UK and the so-called breach of international law, I repeat what I said to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition: what the countries around the world see is the UK offering consistent leadership in the matter of standing up for the rule of law and standing up against Putin’s aggression. I promise him—that is what has been raised with me in the past 10 days.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the leadership that he has shown in the past week and welcome his commitment to our Royal Navy forces being part of NATO. As the Defence and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly starts its two-year investigation into the Russian maritime threat, does he see ongoing support of the Royal Navy in the long term, and what conversations has he had with other NATO allies to increase their maritime support for this vital mission?
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his work for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which was mentioned to me at the summit. I can tell him that the UK is leading the NATO alliance in providing for the new force model in our naval commitment, and we are trying to encourage others to do the same.
Further to the question from Mr Ellwood, the Prime Minister will know that time is running out to get grain to the hundreds of millions of people who will be facing destitution and hunger, as the Secretary-General has warned. Can he tell us who will provide the security guarantees to Ukraine? The fear is that, if we open a sea corridor, the Russians will seek to use it to attack Odesa. Can he confirm that it is to Turkey that the world is looking to provide those guarantees, so the grain can get out before the moment is lost?
The right hon. Gentleman is completely right: the Turks are absolutely indispensable to solving this. They are doing their very best and I thank President Erdoğan for all the efforts that he is making. It does depend on the Russians agreeing to allow that grain to get out. The UK is offering demining facilities and insurance facilities for the vessels that will be needed to get the grain out. He is right about the urgency. We will increasingly have to look at alternative means of moving that grain from Ukraine if we cannot use the sea route—if we cannot use the Bosphorus.
My right hon. Friend has campaigned on this issue for years. I think we will have to spend more. Logically, Mr Speaker, if you protract the commitments that we are making under AUKUS and under the future combat aircraft system, we will be increasing our spending very considerably. What we want to do is to make sure that other allies are doing the same. That is most important. That is why Jens Stoltenberg is, we hope, going to set a new target and allow the whole of the alliance to increase its funding.
While the Prime Minister was talking about British values at three international summits, he was whipping Conservative MPs to vote to trash one of our greatest British values, the rule of law. While he was talking about increasing defence spending, he was ploughing ahead with plans to cut the British armed forces by 10,000 troops. While he was talking about the problem of global price rises, he was raising unfair taxes on millions of pensioners and families across our country. We are facing a domestic economic crisis and a global security crisis, and the Prime Minister is facing his own political crisis. Can he tell the House precisely what his plan is to take our country forward?
I am very happy to tell the right hon. Gentleman, since he asks, that our plan is to help the people in this country with the cost of living, as we are, with £1,200 coming in to people’s bank accounts this month, which we can do because of the sensible economic steps we have taken in coming out of the pandemic, and then to build a stronger economy with reforms to our planning, our housing, our transport and our energy networks. We will take down costs for people up and down the country and continue to make this the best place to live and invest in in the whole of our hemisphere. That is our plan for the country, and I commend it to him.
Western purchases of Russian energy are paying for Putin’s war. Will my right hon. Friend redouble his efforts to ensure that we invest in more production and output of oil, gas and electricity here, to make our contribution to reducing western dependence?
Yes. I think the UK can be very proud of the way we have moved beyond hydrocarbons in so many areas, but we must recognise the limits and the pace of what we have achieved, and be less neuralgic about using our domestic hydrocarbons, particularly when the alternative is just to import them from abroad.
It is 3,056 days since Putin started his illegal invasion of Ukraine, and we spent far too long turning a blind eye to what was going on there, so forgive me if I am a little impatient even about what we have already achieved. I want to see a British industrial strategy to ensure we are making enough lethal weaponry to give to the Ukrainians so they can win. I want to see a major diplomatic effort to ensure that Putin does not make further inroads in Republika Srpska and Bosnia. I also want to make sure that we as a country are still as focused on the laundering of dirty Russian money through the City of London as we should have been 10 years ago.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the UK led the way in Europe in supplying weaponry to Ukraine, and the next generation light anti-tank weapons were of great importance. When it comes to sanctions, we have a new economic crime Bill coming in that will help us to clamp down further, but what we have done already is very considerable. The squeeze is being felt by Putin and his economy, and we will continue to apply it. The hon. Gentleman asks for a long-term strategy: what he got from the G7 and NATO was a commitment to stick to the course for as long as it takes, and that is what we are going to do.
When the Prime Minister’s remarks at the NATO summit were reported last week, the commitment to spending 2.5% on defence appeared to be quite solid. His remarks today are less so. Is that a commitment, and how are we going to pay for it? We have to have a credible plan to pay for it. Are we going to put up taxes, or are we going to reduce expenditure in other areas to deliver what is a welcome and important commitment to the defence of the United Kingdom?
It is a straightforward prediction based on what we are currently committed to spending under the AUKUS and future combat air system programmes. They are gigantic commitments, which I think are the right thing for the UK, and they will take us up to that threshold. Of course, much depends on the size of our GDP at the time and the growth in the economy. My right hon. Friend asks how we will pay for it: we will pay for it out of steady and sustained economic growth, as I said to Ed Davey.
The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill and the Bill of rights are all Bills that numerous informed commentators and cross-party Committees of this House have said threaten to breach our international treaty obligations. The Prime Minister indicated to the Leader of the Opposition that last week some of his interlocutors, at least, had raised these issues with him. All of us who have travelled abroad on parliamentary business recently will have had these issues raised with us. So can he tell us exactly what concerns were raised with him over the past week about his Government’s disrespect for the international rule of law and human rights, and what he is going to do about it?
I can absolutely tell the hon. and learned Lady that not a single person said that the UK was in breach of international law. On the contrary, they said that we were helping the world to stand up against breaches of international law.
The Prime Minister should absolutely be congratulated on what he has done on defence spending. While many in his position previously talked about it, this is actually the biggest increase since the end of the cold war. However, will he confirm that no directive has been issued from No. 10 or the Treasury on numbers of defence personnel, and that that will continue to be the case going forward should the situation change?
My hon. Friend speaks wisely on this matter, which he knows very well. We keep the actual numbers under constant review. The most important thing is that our troops are the best in the world but they also have to have the best equipment in the world, and that is what we are paying for.
I was relieved to see the G7 recognise that 200 million people now face starvation around the world, along with the pledge to mobilise £100 billion in IMF special drawing rights to help to alleviate the crisis. Last week, however, the Foreign Secretary could not tell us how much the UK has been given in special drawing rights nor what her target was for sharing them back—presumably because it was not on Instagram—so can the Prime Minister help us? Can he reassure us that all £19 billion of the UK’s new special drawing rights will be shared to help with this crisis in order to set a good example to the rest of the world?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to draw attention to the use of special drawing rights. We are supportive of using those for the benefit of people around the world who are currently finding things very tough.
I strongly support the Government’s commitment to 2.5% and the Prime Minister’s hint in this statement that we may go further than that in the years to come. None the less, although last year’s integrated review talked about cutting conventional forces—tanks, aircraft and boots on the ground—one of the lessons of Ukraine is that we must not do that, so will he think again about the commitments we have made to cutting, in particular, our infantry?
I know that my hon. Friend has military experience himself, but what we are learning from Ukraine is the vital importance of having troops with a military operation that has 360° protection and the best possible equipment. That is a lesson that the Russians are learning to their cost themselves.
The Prime Minister will have heard the deep concern on both sides of the House, particularly from Mr Ellwood and my right hon. Friend Hilary Benn, about grain in Ukraine and the issue of world hunger and poverty. The Prime Minister said in response that he was talking about the possibility of seeking a solution that may not have the consent of the Russians. For the avoidance of doubt, can he confirm to the House that he is looking at breaching the Montreux agreement about larger forces in the Black sea?
The hon. Lady is right to raise that. No, we are not looking at doing that. There are alternative solutions that do not involve the presence of UK or other warships in the Black sea, although they might involve a tougher approach. We are also looking at the possibility of using the rivers, particularly the Danube, and the railways to get the grain out in smaller quantities than we would be able to do with a giant maritime convoy through the Black sea. We are looking at all the options, including smaller packets of grain coming out in that way.
My right hon. Friend stated that
“Ukraine must have the strength to finish this war on the terms that President Zelensky has described.”
Are we confident that all our allies are as involved and supportive as the UK has been and continues to be for as long as it takes?
I think the answer to that is yes, because every time we go to one of these summits and we think that the alliance is friable and that the strength of the pro-Ukrainian coalition is weak, people gravitate towards the centre and towards what the UK is saying because there is no alternative: Putin is not offering any kind of deal, and President Zelenskyy cannot do any kind of land-for-peace deal. There is no other option for us but to continue to support the Ukrainians in the way that we are, and that is why the unity remains so compelling.
I absolutely understand that the sanctions regime so far has focused on the Russian elite, with travel bans and bans on the export of luxury goods, for example, as well as Russian hydrocarbons, which earn them so much foreign exchange money. As the war continues into the longer term, should we not, as my hon. Friend Chris Bryant said, look at the Russian money still sloshing around in the UK? If somebody has made a large amount of money in Putin’s Russia, should we not assume that the chances are that it is dodgy and start to tighten the domestic sanctions regime?
The hon. Gentleman is right that we have to keep tightening the noose the whole time. The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill will help. It will give us new powers to seize crypto assets and new powers over money laundering. One thing he will have spotted at the G7, which was very important, was the new sanctions on Russian gold worth £13.5 billion, which I mentioned in my statement. That will hit them.
I welcome what the Prime Minister has said about working with other countries to reduce the price of oil and gas, which is critical in this country and across the world. Will he give the House a bit more detail on how we have been working with other countries, particularly in the Commonwealth, on investing in renewable energy, which is clean, safe and secure and reduces our dependence on hydrocarbons over the medium term?
The answer is that the UK is making massive investments in Commonwealth countries. In the G7, the partnership for global infrastructure and investment helps developing countries around the world to move forward and to make the leap ahead to green technology, and to take investment from the UK—and not perhaps from others who are busier in getting them to pay their debts.
I have listened carefully to the Prime Minister’s warm words about the Commonwealth and its relationship with independent countries. In 1941, it was the then Prime Minister Churchill who signed the Atlantic charter with the United States, committing Britain and the United States to delivering people’s right to choose their own form of government and self-government. This respect for the principle of equal rights and the self-determination of peoples was incorporated into the United Nations charter in paragraph 2 of articles 1, 73 and 76. In light of that, can the Prime Minister set out what mandate he has won that allows him to breach this UN principle, deny Scotland’s claim of right and hold Scotland’s democracy hostage?
I know that the First Minister has asked for another referendum, and I just point out that we had one in 2014. Right now the priorities of the country should be rebuilding after covid and taking us forward together as a united country, and that is what we want to do.
Ukraine is by far the most important issue facing us, not least in terms of preventing mass starvation in Africa. One cannot help noticing that unlike all the other fluff in the newspapers every day, nobody dares criticise the Prime Minister’s resolute leadership on Ukraine. What concerns many of us is that some of our allies do not seem to be as resolute as he. While they will give full support to Ukraine not to lose this war, they are not that keen on Ukraine winning this war, because they do not want to humiliate Putin. Can the Prime Minister make clear that it is the absolute commitment of NATO to defeat Putin once and for all?
I agree 100% with what my right hon. Friend said, with just one clarification: it is 100% the objective of NATO, and all our friends and allies, to make sure that Putin fails in Ukraine—it is very important that we frame it in that way—and he can and he will, because the Ukrainians will not have it any other way.
Rwanda and the UK hosted the “Keeping 1.5 Alive” event in Kigali, but at the same time, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report said that the requirement—the opportunity—to keep within 1.5° had now shifted forward from 2032 to 2025. Given that most major emitters in the G7 are not even meeting the Paris commitments that they made seven years ago, what realistic chance does the Prime Minister believe there is of the G7 stepping up to the plate in the next three years to achieve that turning down of emissions?
I strongly welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. In my time in the House, I cannot recall a foreign affairs statement in which the serving Prime Minister could take more personal satisfaction than the one that he has just delivered to the House. His leadership of NATO and the welcome conclusions of the NATO summit only reinforce the fact that, as the Leader of the Opposition said, what Mr Putin wants is for us to lose focus. Will the Prime Minister sustain his focus; get the grain out of Ukraine to meet the desperate need of the rest of the world; and ensure Ukraine’s survival as a sovereign state?
I thank my hon. Friend. That certainly remains the Government’s objective. I stress that what we are doing to support the Ukrainians is not just right in itself, as everyone accepts, but right for the world. That is why it continues to be supported around the world.
The NATO summit rightly identified that Russia and China challenge our security. China continues to make clear the territories that it disputes in the Indo-Pacific. As war rages in Ukraine, concerns for the west’s ammunition stockpiles are growing, and the Prime Minister continues with plans that will see capability gaps in our Navy with fewer planes, tanks and troops. Without a drastic rethink of those cuts, how realistic is the UK’s desire in the integrated review to have a presence in both the north Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific?
Actually, at the Commonwealth summit, the most interesting thing was the widespread understanding of what the UK is doing in the Indo-Pacific tilt and the moves we are making to engage with that part of the world and strengthen our friends and allies in that region. Hon. Members saw what we did with the carrier strike group—an absolutely astonishing exercise—and know about the AUKUS commitment that we have made. We are in the embassies in that part of the world and are increasing our deployments there as well.
The single most impactful thing that we could do now to bear down on the cost of living would be to encourage OPEC, in particular Saudi Arabia, to pump more oil. What will the Government do to encourage our partners, such as Saudi Arabia, to do that? The Saudi Arabian oil Minister recently said that the relationship between Saudi and Moscow is
“as warm as the weather in Riyadh”— a provocative statement that was probably influenced by our continued negotiation with Iran on a nuclear deal. Could the United Kingdom Government take a lead on that?
My right hon. Friend is correct about the role of Saudi. There may be some question about how much more the Saudis could pump out at this moment, but there is no doubt that we will need a lot more OPEC-plus oil. As hon. Members know, the UK has strong and productive relations with Saudi Arabia, which need to continue, and we need to make sure that the whole west does as well. We make that point to the Saudis. That is the way forward; they need to produce more oil—no question.
May I say to the Prime Minister that there is some good stuff in what he has reported and he should be applauded for that, but there are other things that are deeply worrying and concerning? I come from quite a military family—I saw little of my father until I was six because he was away serving in the Royal Engineers during the war—and I tell you that I take a real interest in the size of our Army. Over the last 10 years, I have consistently said to Ministers and Prime Ministers that dipping below 100,000 serving men and women is dangerous and foolish. Whatever the warm words this morning, the fact is that his Government are still committed to going down to 72,000 men and women, and that is not enough to fully protect our country. Will he think again about the size and power of our Army?
I thank the hon. Member very much. I want to say that I perfectly understand why he speaks as he does, but the reality is that the UK Army—the Army alone—will have a whole force of over 100,000: 73,000 plus 30,000 reserves. The key test is: what are they doing and how are they equipped—how are they protected? They are the best in the world, but we also want to make sure that we give them the best possible equipment, and that is what we are doing. If you listen to the Ukrainians, they will tell you that our equipment is the best.
The Prime Minister has said that the world has seen the United Kingdom
“stand up for what is right in Ukraine”, and that is standing up for freedom, liberty and human rights. Tying that to the Commonwealth, the Prime Minister has said that some countries in the Commonwealth were concerned about the narrative of what Russia is doing in Ukraine, but at the same time, a number of those Commonwealth countries are listed in the “World Watch List 2022” for their record on freedom of religion or belief. Was there any discussion on that, because tomorrow the United Kingdom is hosting a ministerial on freedom of religion or belief? I had the pleasure to sign that off in my time as the Prime Minister’s special envoy, and now he is committed to this area. Was there any discussion on how we can advance freedom of religion or belief in the Commonwealth?
First, may I thank my hon. Friend very much for everything he did as envoy for freedom of religion or belief? It is at least partly thanks to his energy and efforts that we have a global conference in this city this week on freedom of belief around the world. I can tell him that one of the many things that unite the Commonwealth is a passionate determination to protect that freedom.
Clamping down on Putin’s cronies and their money—far too little, too late, but nevertheless we are getting there—has I think been one of the positives of this war so far. I am glad to hear the Prime Minister say that he is committed to the economic crime Bill 2 and all the measures in it, but I want to ask him specifically about golden visas. Four years ago, the review of golden visas was promised, but it has not been delivered. Why?
I am grateful to the hon. Member. We are doing everything we can to make sure that we restrict access to this country by Putin’s cronies or anybody who supports the invasion of Ukraine, and that is why we are reviewing the golden visa scheme.
It is clear that the whole House welcomes the strong role that the UK played in driving support for Ukraine. Will the Prime Minister update us on the discussions he had with Prime Minister Kishida of Japan, particularly on the progress of the UK’s participation in the trans-Pacific trade agreement and also on co-operation on science and technology?
I thank my right hon. Friend very much for his role as the UK’s envoy for trade with Japan. I can tell him that the opportunities are absolutely immense, and the Government of Fumio Kishida are determined to progress the alliance with the UK to new heights. He is absolutely right to talk about science and technology. As he knows, we have just lifted barriers to trade with Japan, but what we are also looking at is a partnership with Japan in defence technology that I think could be the foundation of immense future progress, particularly on science and technology.
There is no doubt about the strength of support in NATO and the G7 for this defence of Ukraine and this defence of the legitimate freedom of Ukraine, but there are credible reports that it is now becoming increasingly difficult to get weaponry and ammunition across the globe.
The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. As he knows, the UK began the Ramstein process, where countries commit substantial sums as well as matériel to Ukraine. I am not aware of any logistical problems that we are facing so far. We are still seeing great progress in getting arms into Ukraine, but there is a lot more to do.
Three months ago yesterday, to the day, a refugee mother and a little boy came to live with my family in my home in North Norfolk. Three months seems an incredibly long time now, but it has gone in a shot. The family who came to live with me are terrified about returning to Kyiv. The only hope was the announcement by the Government that we will stand there, at the request of President Zelensky, to champion the rebuilding of their city of Kyiv. That will bring enormous hope to all those refugees who have fled Ukraine. Will the Prime Minister tell me, so that I can give some reassurance to all those families, including the one who live with me now, that we as a country will not give up, that we certainly will not be negotiating with Putin, as some would have us do, and that we will stand firm with the people of Ukraine to ensure that the Russians are expelled from their sovereign country? Then, by golly, bit by bit, we will help those people to rebuild their country.
I thank my hon. Friend for his kindness to the family from Ukraine. I know that that is being done by many other colleagues around the Chamber, and I thank everybody for what they are doing. It is a great, great scheme, and it is much appreciated by the Ukrainians. Thanks to the support we have been giving the Ukrainians, they are starting to see large numbers going back to Ukraine, and of the 7 million who left, at least 3-and-a-bit million have now gone back, which is good news. We want them all to be able to go back safely, and go back safely to their entire country. Then we want the UK to be in the lead, as we are already are in the Kyiv region, in rebuilding Ukraine.
Some very welcome agreements were reached in Madrid, not least the doubling of battle groups on the eastern flank, the massive expansion of the NATO response force, and of course the endorsement of Sweden and Finland as members. Does the Prime Minister agree that our success is underpinned by the maintenance of public support for the war in Ukraine, and can he say how he, and President Biden, plan to ensure that that public support is maintained for as long as necessary?
The hon. Gentleman has served in the armed forces himself, and he understands how difficult it can be to continue to build public support for military expenditure. But it is vital that we do this. The cost of allowing Ukraine simply to fall to Putin, or to be crushed or engulfed, would be immense. And it would not be just a political catastrophe; it would be an economic catastrophe as well, because Putin would not stop there, and the instability and economic damage would continue for generations.
The Scottish nationalists would cut our defence spending to 1.6%, and unilaterally disarm if they were ever to achieve independence. Does the Prime Minister agree that our new ambition to spend 2.5%, and our rock solid commitment to NATO as a guarantor of our security, show why Scotland is better off in the UK?
I hesitated to say that to my right hon. Friend Ian Blackford—and he is my friend, Mr Speaker—but that is the fact. The Scottish contribution to our armed services is immense. Everybody knows it. It is a fantastic thing. It helps to make the UK what it is, and it would be utterly tragic for the whole world if the UK armed services were to face a division of that kind, or a loss of that kind.
When the Prime Minister was in Rwanda, did he meet the leader of the opposition, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who spent eight years in prison simply for criticising the Rwandan regime? Did he speak to President Kagame about his continual policy of criminalising or assassinating his political opponents?
I did raise human rights concerns with President Kagame, and I raised issues of freedom of speech. I am sure that the hon. Member has been to Rwanda, so he will know that in 1994 the country underwent perhaps the most catastrophic, humiliating disaster that any country could undergo. Whatever the hon. Member may say about him, President Kagame has brought that country back from the brink and done an immense service to his country in restoring order, which his people value immensely.
The Prime Minister was right when he recently said that 2% of GDP on defence spending should be a floor, not a ceiling. However, some of our allies are still in the basement when it comes to meeting their NATO commitments. Will he therefore outline what efforts were made specifically to rectify that in Madrid?
What the UK has been doing is leading by example. It was at Cardiff in 2014 that we set the target of 2% of GDP—a floor, not a ceiling. We were one of the first to exceed it, and eight other countries are now exceeding it. What we are seeing around the table is countries absolutely determined to follow suit and spend more. I will single out what Olaf Scholz has been doing in Germany, where there has been a quite remarkable change of events.
It was a great day for democracy, which is one thing among many that the Commonwealth stands for in the world. I think that Patricia Scotland will do an excellent job for the next two years, and she will get every possible support.
At recent visits to the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference as well as at the Council of Europe, it has been widely acknowledged that the Prime Minister has been leading not just Europe but world leaders in his response to Ukraine. However, countries on the frontline such as Poland and Romania are also doing a huge amount. On grain shipments, has the Prime Minister had any dealings with the President of Romania on the possibility of using the port of Constana to protect global food prices?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point and alludes to exactly the solutions that we are trying to find in the event that we are forced into an operation that does not involve the consent of the Russians, as I think is all too likely.
The discussion at the G7 was probably liveliest on that subject. The G7 feels that China is a gigantic fact of our lives and that we have got to understand that. Everybody has got huge trading relations with China, but, on the other hand, there are lots of areas where we have got to compete, contest and, sometimes, challenge what China does. That was very much agreed around the table at the G7, and indeed at NATO.
My constituents are proud of the actions taken by this country and the Prime Minister in supporting Ukraine, its armed forces and the victims of Russian aggression in Ukraine. However, they are feeling the pinch in their pockets, and the public purse is under severe pressure as well, so they want to know that our NATO allies and immediate neighbours are playing their part in equal measure.
On the table of expenditure, the US is way out in front. I really congratulate Joe Biden on his leadership. Joe Biden and the Americans have really stepped up to the plate—a fantastic effort. We are spending the second biggest amount, and I think that the Poles are in third place. There is then a long tail of others, but everybody is now spending more and more. We agreed that we are in it for the long haul; that is the most important thing.
We now bring in Paul Holmes.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. That was great exercise bobbing, I can tell you.
The Prime Minister should be congratulated on his international leadership on Ukraine, which is shown by how much people in Ukraine and the Ukrainian Government applaud him for his leadership at NATO. We are now entering a phase where the Ukrainians really need to start to be able to push the Russian lines back. What conversations has he had in NATO about providing heavier land-based equipment to the Ukrainians?
My hon. Friend is completely right; that is where the focus now is. The Ukrainians are heroic. They have shown they can push the Russians back. They pushed them from Kyiv. They pushed them back from Kharkiv. What they need is the right multiple launch rocket systems to do it, because the Russians are very good at standing off and using heavy artillery to shell and intimidate. The MLRS are absolutely critical to the Ukrainian fightback. That is what we are giving them now, together with several other allies. What they also need is the training to make sure that those very sophisticated weapons are used to the best possible effect, and we are giving them that training as well.