Ukraine Update

– in the House of Commons at 12:16 pm on 26 January 2023.

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Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence 12:16, 26 January 2023

Equipping Ukraine to push Russia out of its territory is as important as equipping it to defend what it already has. Together, we will continue supporting Ukraine to move from resisting Russian forces to expelling them from Ukrainian soil. By bringing together allies and partners, we are ensuring that the surge of global military support is as strategic and as co-ordinated as possible.

The new level of required combat power is achievable only by a combination of main battle tank squadrons beneath air and missile defence, operating alongside divisional artillery groups and further deep precision fires that enable the targeting of Russian logistics and command nodes in occupied territory.

On 16 January, the Secretary of State for Defence announced in this House the UK’s latest package of military support for Ukraine. The United Kingdom is committed to providing the capabilities Ukraine requires to drive further international donations and to secure lasting peace. The UK, our allies and partners are responding decisively to provide military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. The UK has led the world with the gifting of modern main battle tanks to Ukraine, and we are engaging international partners through a co-ordinated military and diplomatic effort.

The Secretary of State for Defence co-hosted a meeting of partners with his Estonian counterpart on 19 January to push forward international donations. The Tallinn pledge is an important declaration of commitment to Ukraine. The provision of tanks was also discussed at the meeting of the Ukraine defence contact group at Ramstein airbase on 20 January.

We welcome the decision by Germany to send Leopard 2 tanks, and by the United States to send Abrams tanks, to Ukraine, and we are delighted that they have now joined the United Kingdom, France and Poland in equipping Ukraine with this important capability. Our united resolve can and will prove decisive. In 2023, we are more determined than ever. We will support Ukraine for as long as it takes.

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Shadow Minister (Defence) 12:18, 26 January 2023

I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement. This is an important opportunity to discuss the developments of the past few days.

The UK remains united in its support for Ukraine. The first package of UK military assistance in 2023, with tanks, artillery, infantry vehicles, ammunition and missiles, has Labour’s fullest support. We warmly welcome the announcements from Germany, the US, France and Poland that they will be sending tanks, and that Germany will grant export licences to allow others to follow suit. This will provide more of the equipment that Ukraine needs to win at a pivotal moment. This is an historic move from Germany in particular, and NATO allies continue to move in lockstep to provide vital support.

We also welcome the Tallinn pledge as an important statement of western unity and intent to provide Ukraine with the support it needs. The west is united and we move together at a vital moment for Ukrainian forces. We encourage the Government to continue to work with NATO and European allies to deliver the support Ukraine needs to face down Putin’s aggression. It is now our duty to make sure that Ukraine wins this war. Can the Minister say when he expects Ukrainian troops to begin their training with our Challenger 2 tanks, and when he expects those tanks, and the tanks being sent by NATO allies, to begin to arrive on the frontline?

Labour has argued for months that Ministers need to move beyond ad hoc announcements and set out a long-term plan of support for Ukraine, as they promised last August. Will the Minister commit today to ensuring that that is published before the one-year anniversary of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine? The Prime Minister has rightly identified this as a window of opportunity for a surge in global military support for Ukraine. How will the Minister ensure that there is a surge in UK support? What further support do the Government plan to send this year?

The conflict is also depleting our stockpiles and Ministers are moving too slowly to replace them. What steps is the Minister taking to ramp up production of ammunition and equipment to restock our own armed forces and to support Ukraine? It took 287 days from the start of the invasion for the Defence Secretary to get his act together and sign a new contract to replenish NLAWs—next-generation light anti-tank weapons—for our armed forces and for Ukraine. How many more contracts have been signed to replenish UK stockpiles of the other weapons sent to Ukraine?

Finally, will the Minister now say what bearing these developments will have on the coming refresh of the integrated review? The Defence Secretary has said he will review the size of our tank fleet. Does the Minister think scrapping a third of our Challenger tanks in the original IR was a mistake? We are now at a critical moment in the war. The winter deadlock could soon give way to a spring offensive from Russia and further counter-attacks from Ukraine. As the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion approaches, the UK and NATO allies must send a clear signal that we will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. Putin must be clear that things will get harder for him, not easier, this year.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I thank the hon. Lady for her remarks. She ended them by saying that the world must send a clear signal and she is absolutely right about that. I am pleased that this House, too, is sending a clear signal, as reflected by her opening remarks. She was also right to pick out the particular role of Germany, and she mentioned the historical context; this is a big move, it is a welcome move and it is the right move. I also wish to put on record that Germany has made a very significant contribution in providing munitions and support, and I hope that will not be understated.

The hon. Lady asked a number of questions, so let me turn to those. I am pleased to say that training is expected to start next week, on Monday. She asked when the Challenger 2 tank will be in theatre; the intention is that that will be at the end of March. Between now and then there will be a significant programme of training, not just for the tank crews who are to operate the vehicle, but for those who will be charged with maintaining it. I am happy to discuss that further in due course if questions arise.

The hon. Lady talked about a surge of support. I will come on to that, but I want to make the point, which I am sure is well understood in this House but bears repetition, that this country has provided more military support than any nation on the planet apart from the United States. What does that mean? It means: 100,000 artillery shells; more than 200 armoured fighting vehicles; more than 10,000 anti-tank weapons; Javelins; Brimstones; NLAWs; night vision googles; and plastic explosives. It means so much. We do all that and more. I also pause to note that this was the nation that ensured that a lot of that equipment was in theatre before the invasion started, because we saw what Russia’s intentions were.

The hon. Lady rightly presses us on what will happen next. We have already trained 10,000 troops—we have been training Ukrainian troops since 2014. We will continue to do that in 2023, and indeed the funding is there for a further package of support, and it will include, for example, another 100,000 or so artillery shells.

The hon. Lady is right to mention restocking. She will understand that operational sensitivities mean that I cannot go into the detail of exactly what is going to be restocked and when, but she will know that Privy Counsellors, including from the Opposition, have been given a briefing on that—that is exactly what we should be doing to ensure that those who need to know these sensitive details are told what they properly can be told. That has taken place.

Let us pause for a moment to consider the IR. The original IR, which was framed before the Russian invasion, correctly identified that Russia was a threat. Of course in this refresh we look to recalibrate and consider what further steps need to be taken. The Secretary of State has been clear that we will review all matters, including tanks, to which the hon. Lady referred. I want to close by saying that the UK has been on the front foot and on the frontline in terms of providing support for Ukraine, and when it comes to main battle tanks we have done exactly the same. This nation will be unflinching in its support of Ukraine—we were in 2022 and we certainly will be for the rest of this year.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Chair, Defence Committee, Chair, Defence Committee, Chair, Defence Sub-Committee, Chair, Defence Sub-Committee

I very much welcome this update and the detail that the Minister has provided. It is not often one can say this in the House, but Britain and our allies are now mobilising in earnest for war. After so much international hesitancy, we are finally, nudged on by the UK, beginning to muster the serious hardware that can make a material difference on the battlefield. But we must move from talking about tactics to strategy. Does he agree that this war is no longer about just Ukraine—it is about a widening threat to the west? Does he agree that Putin is now the single most destabilising force in Europe and that the conflict has entered a more complex and dangerous chapter, with major security implications for our own defence posture, particularly the poor state of our land forces? It is unacceptable that our tank numbers have dropped from 900 two decades ago to just 148 today—that must be reviewed.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s important contribution. Of course we accept that Putin represents a threat; we said that in the IR. In the actions Putin took in February last year, he made it crystal clear that the rhetoric he had been developing prior to that period had been put into action. It is clear to us that unless we address this threat now, through the support for Ukraine, which is fighting a just war of defence, it is likely that that threat will only grow. On land forces, my right hon. Friend is extremely well acquainted with the future soldier programme to rebuild those armed forces. On a matter of detail, the tank number is not 148—it is 227.

Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson Scottish National Party, Midlothian

I, too, rise to welcome this statement and I thank the Minister for advance sight of it. I will largely echo the comments of others, because clearly all of us in this place stand united behind Ukraine and welcome the steps that have been taken. I do not think any of us can underestimate the steps taken yesterday with the decision by Germany and how difficult a decision that was for the Germans. That is most certainly worth noting. I also note that there are concerns about this next wave of mobilisation of Russian troops, the suggestion that the Russians have drafted 500,000 new recruits into their army and how quickly they may be able to mobilise.

Although I welcome the moves we have made, there is, obviously, concern about the time it is going to take to get troops up and running and feet on the ground. I welcome the Defence Secretary’s authorisation of the shipment of the 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, although I note that Ukraine’s most senior military commander, General Valery Zaluzhny, said that it needs some 300 western tanks and about 600 western armoured fighting vehicles in order to make a difference. Will the Minister outline whether we will be sending any further Challenger 2 tanks, beyond this initial squadron? I note that in 2021 the Government announced that they were planning to retire about 80 tanks from the UK’s arsenal, so it is possible that some or all of those could be considered for repurposing for deployment to Ukraine, if they are fit enough for that? How is the Ministry of Defence assisting other NATO allies such as Spain that have not yet sent tanks but wish to do so?

Ukrainian forces will need time to learn how to operate this highly technical equipment, so how will UK armed forces collaborate with NATO counterparts to supply the necessary auxiliary equipment and training to make sure that Ukrainian forces can maximise that capability? Finally, what discussions has the Department had with allies to consider sending fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming weeks and months, so that we do everything we can to aid Ukraine’s struggle?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. He raises a number of very important issues. May I reiterate the point about unity across the House? He has demonstrated that, and I thank him for it.

The hon. Gentleman raised an important point at the beginning about the time taken to mobilise. No apology is made for that, because, unless the time is taken to properly train the tank crews and also those who support the equipment, we will not achieve the impact that we all want to see. One thing that I am encouraged by, and I am pleased to be able to update the House about, is the extent to which we will be training those maintenance crews on a five-week course, entirely separate from the tank crews themselves, to provide the kind of deep maintenance that is needed, by which I mean if a gearbox or wheel needs to be replaced. We will be supplying not just the tanks, but the supplies and the training to ensure that those vehicles can remain on the road. The tank crews themselves will have a level of maintenance training, but there will be a deep maintenance training support package as well. In addition, there will be the ability to reach back to the UK. In other words, they will be able to communicate to the UK, “Look, this is an issue with this tank. Can you support us?” We will then provide that technical knowhow remotely.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the number of tanks. The thing that is so important, and that the Secretary of State was so clear about in his remarks in the House, is that the UK has a leadership role to catalyse other nations. That is what we intended to do and—I hope it is fair to say—that is what we have delivered. The number of tanks overall is now over 70. Two weeks ago it was zero, so we are making steps in the right direction.

The hon. Gentleman asked about other countries—Spain, for example. It is of course a matter for Spain, but I hope that it will take comfort from the fact that the United Kingdom and, indeed, Germany, as he rightly pointed out, have reached this decision, and it may be that other nations will see the way to make similar decisions. Ultimately, though, it is a matter for those other countries.

Let me address the point about armoured fighting vehicles—a point that is sometimes lost. This nation alone has donated more than 200 armoured fighting vehicles—the so-called dogs of war that we are familiar with from Afghanistan. These are big, heavy fighting vehicles with weapons capabilities that provide assistance on the battlefield.

On the issue of tanks overall, the Secretary of State has been clear that 40 tanks have been provided, which means that those existing hulls that were at low readiness will be brought forward to high readiness. That is about ensuring that our overall fleet—the fleet that remains—is more lethal and more ready for action.

As for fighters, we will just have to wait and see. This is an important step at the moment. It is one that we think has a way to go, especially as other nations will perhaps see their way forward as well.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

What further steps can be taken to reduce the effectiveness of the criminal Wagner organisation? Is the Ministry of Defence satisfied that all its expenditure on helping Ukraine is being fully reimbursed from the Treasury reserve?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Those are two very important points, for which I am grateful.

On the second point, yes, expenditure is being reimbursed by the Treasury. Indeed, when we look at the sums that have been allocated for ammunition, there is an additional £650 million to procure not just replacement ammunition, but deeper supplies. That is a very important point. It is a statement of fact that it takes time—of course it does—to replenish those stores, but the funding is in place to do so.

On the first point, as my right hon. Friend will appreciate, tactical decisions about precisely how equipment is deployed—it could be against the Wagner organisation in and around Soledar and Bakhmut—is a matter for commanders on the ground. Our job, as we see it, is to ensure that those decision makers in the field have the equipment they need to push back against Russian forces, Wagner forces or whoever it is. If the Russians have their own difficulties over precisely who is in control and the politics within their ranks, that is a matter for them.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham

I thank the Minister for setting a new record for the shortest statement in history: four paragraphs and less than a page and a quarter.

I return to the point raised by Mr Ellwood, which is the effect of these donations on our Army’s capability. We have seen the press speculation about the Chief of the General Staff’s comments about the hollowing out of our capabilities in the Army. The Minister talked about 227 Challenger 2 tanks, but he knows that, operationally, it is far fewer than 100. What will he do to ensure that those alarm bells that have been sounded by the Chief of the General Staff are met with new capabilities so that we can meet our NATO commitments?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The Chief of the General Staff also went on to make the point that it could not be in a better cause. Indeed, it is important to make the point that weapons that we supply have the effect of degrading the very adversary who was noted in the integrated review. We are fighting this just war not only to stand up for the international rule of law, and to make a statement that might is not always right and that we cannot remake borders by force, but to degrade the forces of our principal adversary as identified in the IR.

The Secretary of State has said, in respect of our Challenger 2 tanks, that he will now, at his instruction, ensure that more hulls are brought to a greater state of readiness, so that, as part of our overall land fleet, we have Challenger 2 squadrons ready to deploy in the defence of this nation.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on National Policy Statements, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on National Policy Statements

I thank my hon. and learned Friend and the Government for the exemplary way in which the UK Government have led on all this. They have made a very significant and considerable change in the atmosphere over the past few days. But what about France? What discussions are taking place with it? If we want NATO unity, it is now the odd man out because it is not sending tanks. Does the Minister agree that the side that can mass its forces with sufficient speed is the side that will turn the tide of the war? Should we not be doing more? Why are we not sending all our tanks that are available—all our Warrior vehicles? We can replenish our armoured vehicle fleet over time, but the Ukrainians need our stuff now. What else will those vehicles be used for?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Let me deal with the issue of France. It is, of course, a matter for sovereign nations to make their decision, and we would respectfully point out and welcome the decision of the French Government to provide Ukraine with the AMX-10 highly mobile tank. It is not their main battle tank, as my hon. Friend points out, but it is, none the less, one that has been used very recently in reconnaissance missions by the French army and was deployed as recently as the Barkhane mission in west Africa. That comes together with a number of very sophisticated and lethal bits of ammunition. We would, of course, welcome further progress, but, ultimately, it is a matter for them.

My hon. Friend raises an important question that will doubtless be in the minds of many people, which is why not give more. That is something that we will keep under review, but we do have to balance it with the point that Mr Jones made about UK sovereign capability and the ability for us to deploy tanks in the defence of our own borders. These are difficult judgments to make, but we are satisfied that our initial contribution, which has helped to galvanise and catalyse further international contributions, is the right donation to be making at this stage. We keep all these matters under review.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central

I echo the concerns expressed by the Chair of the Defence Committee, Mr Ellwood, about the state of our land forces. It is vital that this is addressed in the context of the refresh of the integrated review. May I also echo the sentiment expressed by the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Sir Julian Lewis, about the resourcing of all of this? Although providing this capability is the right thing to do, it will come at some cost and with some undermining of our defence capability. Will the Minister reiterate the point that I think he made just a moment ago that the costs will fall on the Treasury, and that the cost of deploying this additional capability will not fall on an already stretched MOD budget?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

May I underscore that point and add that, as part of the support to the Ukrainians in respect of Challenger 2 tanks, we provide them with ammunition, spares and the technical support that I mentioned a few moments ago? We also want to support them to provide a lot of the spares themselves in the fullness of time—whether by using 3D printing or whatever it is—so that they can become self-sufficient. That is a very important part of sustaining this effort. As far as financial support is concerned, it was £2.3 billion last year and a similar sum this year. That is an important part of the support that we can provide, and it goes together with humanitarian support.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale

The Ukrainian diaspora and the Ukrainian families who have come to my constituency will welcome this announcement and the UK’s leadership on the issue. I particularly welcome what my hon. and learned Friend had to say about the maintenance of the vehicles and kit supplied, because that has been a problem in other theatres. Can he reassure me that, along with the focus on very high-level equipment—tanks, and indeed the question about fighter jets—we will not lose sight of the basic kit required in the day-to-day conflict?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question and for the support his constituents have given the Ukrainian people. We sit here and talk about tanks and missiles, but some of the most important support we have given is through the people of this country who have welcomed into their homes Ukrainians fleeing persecution and aggression. On his specific point, we will continue to provide military support, particularly supplies for the tanks, and—I cannot remember what his second point was—

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Yes—that is essential. One thing we do not talk about as much, although perhaps we should, is winter kit. Much of the equipment we are providing is what helps with basic war fighting, to ensure that Ukrainian troops do not suffer from cold. We also provide night-vision goggles, medicines and other equipment to allow them to take the fight to the enemy.

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Independent, Rutherglen and Hamilton West

Abrams tanks provided by the US Government could prove to be extremely expensive to run, as they rely on jet fuel. What discussions have Ministers had with our international partners about ensuring that the heavy armour provided can be easily maintained and is not a hindrance to Ukrainian forces?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

It is not for us to discuss how the Abrams tanks should be maintained, but the hon. Lady makes an important point: heavy armour can be a liability if we do not ensure it is properly resourced and maintained. That is why we are working at the fastest possible pace to balance the urgent operational requirement of getting this equipment into the field with ensuring that it is an asset, not a liability. We have ensured that not only will the tank crews—who, incidentally, will be already experienced on tanks, albeit of a different type—be selected to be trained, but separate maintenance crews will have the skills and supplies to sustain Challenger 2 tanks in the field and take the fight to the enemy.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Will the Minister pay tribute to the workers at BAE Systems in Telford and elsewhere in the country who are working hard to deliver the new turret for Challenger 2, and who will have to pull out all the stops to supply support for those tanks? Has he considered whether, if we need to cannibalise some of our tanks temporarily and take them out of commission to provide spares to Ukraine, we are prepared to do that?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

We have already identified the spares that are to be required as part of this package. Right hon. and hon. Members can have in their minds that not only is the physical tank being provided, but a container or something similar of supplies is coming with it. That has been identified as well. We have looked into our inventories to make sure we are in a position to properly support the Ukrainians, and there is a helpful and constructive dialogue with them about the number of munitions they require and the level of maintenance supplies needed to sustain them—informed, by the way, by the experience they already have in the field.

I pay tribute to those at BAE Systems and Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land in Telford, who will do an important job. I have been to see them myself. I want to emphasise one further point: yes, we will provide munitions and technical know-how, but we also want to pivot to a position where those operating the systems can independently maintain them and supply the spares required. That is what the Ukrainians want, and that is the know-how we are going to assist them with.

Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Labour, Walsall South

Does the Minister agree that we should strongly support the comments of the Secretary-General of NATO when he says that this is an important time to end the Russian tyranny and to remind people that Ukrainians are the victims? They did not ask to be invaded and we should support them until the end.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I do, and the right hon. Lady paraphrases it very well. Those of us who look at history can look back at all sorts of conflicts and sometimes it is quite difficult to work out what the war aims were, but there is nothing complicated about this case. This is a war of invasion and a war of aggression; it is an attempt to demonstrate that the international rule of law does not matter at all and that might is always right. This nation will always stand up for basic principles of international law and justice. That is why the Ukrainians find in us a staunch ally.

Photo of Anna Firth Anna Firth Conservative, Southend West

I thank the Minister for his statement and for confirming to this House that we will continue to lead the world in supporting Ukraine, as we have since the beginning of this war. Will he reassure me and my constituents in Southend West that we are doing everything we can to encourage other countries, particularly European countries that may not have done anything so far, to step up their efforts to contribute to ending this evil war?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I thank my hon. Friend, who stands up so well for her constituents. She is right that the UK cannot do everything on its own, but we can set a powerful example. We have significant capabilities that we can bring to the field and a powerful example that we can set. That is the approach we intend to take. Leadership comes from doing the right thing, and I am confident that we can expect the trend we have already seen, of other nations following our lead, to continue.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

I was pleased to hear what the Minister said about the importance of the basic winter kits and so on. Given that we are trying to persuade other countries to be more generous and supportive as well, what role is the UK playing in trying to co-ordinate efforts so that what is supplied matches the need on the ground?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that we need to ensure that co-ordination takes place. That is why the British Government were in the lead in Tallinn, as I indicated in my initial statement, where the Netherlands, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Denmark, the Czech Republic and various other countries were present, and that led to the Tallinn pledge. We were also present at Ramstein the following day, with the United States and various other countries. I think the pledges we are now seeing find their root, as it were, in those important meetings that took place. She is right that co-ordination is essential, and not just on main battle tanks, because main battle tanks operated by soldiers who do not have proper winter equipment, for example, will not be as effective as they otherwise would be. There are all sorts of things going on that are perhaps not necessarily reported on with the same level of intensity, but are vital to ensuring that Ukrainians can fight and fight to win.

Photo of Duncan Baker Duncan Baker Conservative, North Norfolk

At Christmas time, I launched a campaign along with local residents to take generators to some of the worst affected areas in Ukraine. It was Christmas, people do not have a lot of money, and I was not quite sure how successful it would be, but today I can say we have raised nearly £18,000 and, thanks to this campaign and all the constituents who have been incredibly supportive, we now have 94 generators from North Norfolk in three Transit vans to take over to Lviv to be distributed. We talk a lot about people power around this country and all the people who have helped, so will my hon. and learned Friend thank my constituents for gathering together 94 generators, and Andrew Hadley and Rob Scammell, who have been superb and worked tirelessly on this project?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My hon. Friend paints a powerful tribute and I am happy to echo it. The people of North Norfolk have stepped up admirably, not only in providing generators, but in opening their hearts and their homes to people fleeing Ukraine, so I absolutely pay tribute to them. It is worth remembering that this country has provided not just generators, but ambulances and Sea King search and rescue helicopters in addition to medicines and so on.

There is one matter that I am happy to correct, by the way: I said £600 million for additional ammunition, but I think it is £560 million. In so far as that is material, I am happy to make that clear.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Does the Minister agree that, if anyone wants to understand President Putin better, they should do what I have done and watch the brilliant new documentary by Norma Percy, “Putin, Russia and the West”, which will be broadcast again on Monday on the BBC? It is very revealing about what we face. Does he also agree with me and other Back Benchers who have said that, while it is crucial that we send more tanks, and I applaud that—the gearboxes for the Challengers are all made at David Brown Santasalo in Huddersfield, and much else, too, so that is all good news—this is also about morale? The civilians across Ukraine need blankets, heat and food. Can we make sure across Departments that the folks at home, who support their troops and their President, are getting that kind of help with keeping warm this winter and feeding themselves and their children?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks and pay tribute to his constituents, who have been providing gearboxes for the Challenger 2 tanks. He is absolutely right to say that the support is not just military. Indeed, more than £1 billion of humanitarian support has been provided by the British Government, and there are those from North Norfolk and elsewhere who have been doing a huge amount besides—blankets are important, food is important, generators are important. I am proud that this country has provided tens of thousands of sets of winter clothing for Ukrainian troops. That means that General Winter—as some have referred to winter and the impact that it can have on conflicts in that part of the world—should be on the side of the Ukrainians.

Photo of Helen Morgan Helen Morgan Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Levelling up, Housing and Communities), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Local Government)

I welcome the Minister’s statement. The Liberal Democrats join the Government and other Opposition parties in opposing this dreadful invasion. The Minister mentioned the Wagner Group, which we know is an agent of Putin that is responsible for egregious human rights abuses and atrocities not just in Ukraine, but around the world, in Mali, Sudan and Syria. Will the Minister commit to proscribing the military units and mercenary groups that are carrying out those atrocities in Ukraine and elsewhere?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I thank the hon. Lady for her question and her support. Her point about the Wagner Group is one that is under active consideration by the Government as we speak.

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

As co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Ukraine, I am overwhelmed by the support from across the House for the people of Ukraine, and I thank the Government for the amount of military assistance that they are giving. One of the outstanding issues of the war, and something that is maybe slightly newer in modern warfare, is the overwhelming use of drones—Russia’s use of Iranian-supplied drones in particular is having a devastating effect on Ukraine. The use of drones is very lopsided; the Ukrainian military does not have the number of drones that the Russian military has. Have the UK Government considered supplying drones to Ukraine, and did that form part of the talks in Tallinn or Ramstein or with NATO counterparts?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

We have supplied drones and will continue to do so.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I very much thank our Government and our Ministers for their stance to galvanise public opinion and get us all together, and to encourage all NATO countries across Europe and elsewhere to support Ukraine. As the anniversary of the conflict with Russia approaches, we are all very much focused on a long-term commitment to Ukraine, which there has to be. The Minister has indicated clearly what needs to be done. Has he made an assessment not just of military help—tanks and other matériel—but of long-term help? We in Northern Ireland have been supporting Ukraine, through Thales and our anti-tank weapons, which have become useful to the Ukrainians. When it comes to the long term, does the Minister accept that the Ukraine war is our war, that the Ukrainian battle for freedom and democracy is our battle, and that, whatever we do, in every aspect, we must do for ourselves as well as for them?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The point about unity is so important. If this war has shown anything, it is that the values of democracy, liberty and the rule of law are values around which many free nations coalesce, so there is that unity. Of course, we are not a participant in the war, which is a matter for the Ukrainians, but they are fighting for a principle, and we absolutely join them in sending the message that you cannot redraw international borders through the use of force and exert your will in some totalitarian lawless way. They will have our support for as long as it takes.