Ukraine Update

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:18 pm on 26 January 2023.

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Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence 12:18, 26 January 2023

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.