Ukraine: Military Equipment

– in the House of Commons at 12:39 pm on 27 February 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight 12:39, 27 February 2024

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on international supplies of military equipment and ammunition to Ukraine.

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The UK has been leading international support for the armed forces of Ukraine for 10 years since Russia first invaded Crimea in 2014, training more than 60,000 new recruits since 2015 and committing almost £12 billion in economic, humanitarian and military aid since 2022. From the UK-founded, UK-administered international fund for Ukraine, which has pledged more than £900 million, to spearheading capability coalitions, our efforts have paved the way and made a genuine difference. Our NLAW anti-tank missiles and our Javelins helped brave Ukrainians to devastate Putin’s menacing 40-mile armoured convoy, which was headed for Kyiv. We were the first to send main battle tanks with our Challenger squadron, plus 500 armoured vehicles and 15,000 anti-armour weapons.

Last week the Defence Secretary announced to this House a new package of 200 Brimstone anti-tank missiles, plus £245 million for artillery munitions. The UK will also co-lead an international capability coalition, alongside Latvia, to supply cutting-edge drones to Ukraine, in addition to the UK’s co-leadership of the international maritime capability coalition. The Defence Secretary has urged partners and allies to commit to long-term support for Ukraine. At the NATO Defence Ministers’ meeting on 15 February, the Defence Secretary and his counterparts from 14 NATO allies and Sweden signed an agreement on two new multinational procurement initiatives focusing on munitions and missiles. Spearheaded by the UK, these initiatives aim to increase defence industrial capacity across the Euro-Atlantic area, replenish stockpiles at pace and continue support to Ukraine.

Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight

I commend the Government for their impressive record, but does the Minister accept that the equipment pledged by NATO nations is not reaching Ukraine in anything like the amounts promised? Does he accept, for example, that less than a third of the 1 million shells promised by EU nations have arrived, that more than 300 artillery barrels will reach the end of their productive life this year, that very few pilots are being trained and that the Ukrainians are perilously short of air defence? This is at a time when the Russians are on a war footing, with 40% of all their Government spending geared towards the destruction of the Ukrainian state.

Specifically, may I ask whether Defence Intelligence and the Government reckon that the Ukrainians will be able to hold their current positions, and if so, for how long? When will artillery stocks run even lower and fall off a cliff edge? Will the Minister confirm that we have delivered on all our pledges? I was in east Ukraine last week. Does he understand that, after the obliteration of the frontline town of Avdiivka, the Ukrainians are now asking which of their towns will be the next to be destroyed by Russian artillery, while Ukrainian soldiers die because they lack kit? Finally, does he accept that the situation is becoming acutely dangerous for everybody, with the forces of fascism beginning to overpower free states and their NATO allies? Where does he believe we might be with security throughout Europe in the next few months?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend and I pay tribute to him and all parliamentarians who have visited Ukraine and shown our solidarity and support for our ally. I know that he has a background as an officer in the Intelligence Corps, so he speaks not only with the passion we all share but with significant expertise on these matters. He will therefore be aware that there is a limit to what I can say on the operational situation and being drawn into trying to estimate the level of supplies. These are all sensitive and important points.

I think we can all agree that what my hon. Friend says about air support and training is important. I was at RAF Valley recently and, as I understand it, we are providing 26 Ukrainians with elementary flying training. We are flying the F-16 and we have Typhoon F-35s, while other countries will be providing the actual platforms. He is absolutely right to say that air defence is a critical part of the conflict and we need to supply more. We have provided over 1,000 air defence systems but we want to do more.

On the overall position, as I have said, we cannot provide a running commentary on the exact operational situation, but we provide regular tweets sharing what intelligence we can. Fundamentally, my hon. Friend is right to warn all of us, and indeed our allies, of the risk, were the situation to be reversed. We can say with some certainty that when the war started, we would all have been surprised to be in this situation with Ukraine having won back so much territory and, frankly, remained in the fight. That is thanks in a huge part to the role of the United Kingdom, and we should be proud of that.

As the Secretary of State confirmed in his recent oral statement, we provided NLAWs before Russia invaded and have been training Ukrainians since 2014—60,000 in total—but I know there is more to do. My hon. Friend has a very good understanding of these matters. These capability coalitions—one on drones and the other on maritime— are a good way to turn the support that has been provided into targeted and effective capability on the frontline. We are clear that we need to do more, and our allies need to stay with us in the fight.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Minister (Defence)

As we mark two years since Vladimir Putin’s brutal, illegal invasion began, it should be a source of pride to all in this House that the UK remains totally united and committed to supporting Ukraine. We must continue to stand with the Ukrainian people for as long as it takes for them to win.

On military help for Ukraine and on reinforcing our NATO allies, the UK Government have had, and will continue to have, Labour’s fullest support. At yesterday’s opening of the Paris summit, to shore up support for Ukraine, western leaders rightly made it clear that Russia is far from a spent force and that Putin will not stop at Ukraine if he wins. As Russia steps up its war effort, we must step up our support, and so must Ukraine’s other allies. Labour welcomes the 200 extra Brimstone anti-tank missiles and the £245 million artillery munitions package for Ukraine, which the Government announced this weekend.

Ministers favour ad hoc announcements over a fuller military aid plan for Ukraine, but how can industry invest and mobilise with confidence without a long-term plan to work against? On stepping up western support for Ukraine, how are we co-ordinating with our NATO allies to ensure that our munitions support provides Ukraine with the urgent and sustained help it needs? Of the £2.5 billion announced for 2024, can the Minister confirm how much is being spent on Ukraine and how much is being spent on UK operational costs at NATO bases?

Given the importance of the Paris summit for Ukraine, why was the Prime Minister unable to attend the event, unlike other key western leaders? There could be a change in Government this year, but there will be no change in Britain’s resolve to stand with Ukraine, to confront Russian aggression and to pursue Putin for his war crimes.

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for continuing to show solidarity, for the consensus that exists across the House and, in particular, for specifically mentioning the Brimstone gifting and the £245 million recently announced for artillery munitions.

The hon. Gentleman talks about our longer-term plan. Just to be clear, the war is happening today and the key focus of the £2.5 billion for Ukraine this financial year is getting support into the country as soon as possible, which is when they need it. Of course, we want to have a long-term plan too. I am clear that the UK will play a very significant role in helping Ukraine, when it is fully free, to get back to the level of prosperity it expects. For now, we have to focus on what is a very challenging situation.

Drones are one of the most important capabilities we have seen in Ukraine, and they have arguably transformed the nature of warfare in this conflict. Last week I was pleased to announce our own uncrewed strategy and, in doing so, I talked about the Malloy T150 drone, which has done an incredible job, lifting blood, munitions and other key supplies to Ukrainian marines on the bank of the Dnieper. We have provided 4,000 drones to Ukraine, and we will keep doing that—we have the £200 million. Yes, it is about shells and munitions, but we also have to provide a way to fight with them; we have to assist to ensure that we deliver that capability, which is why those coalitions are so important.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman supports us in the round, and we are sending a message that this House is united in supporting Ukraine.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Father of the House of Commons

The Minister says the training started in 2014, which is the year after the House took, in my view, the wrong decision in the Syria vote; it led to Russia giving help to Assad, the taking of Crimea, the infiltration of eastern Ukraine and various other problems.

As Ukraine’s security is, in effect, our security and that of our NATO allies, will he confirm that we will do all we can to try to make sure that Ukraine is safe and that Russia, at some stage, returns to being a peaceful nation devoted to the prosperity of its own people, rather than doing down other people?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point and he is absolutely right to say that their security is our security. We need to support Ukraine, because it is morally the right thing to do to support a free country that has been illegally invaded. We should also be clear that it is in our strategic interests and those of all of our democratic allies to do so, because we do not want to see an emboldened Russia, not least because of the impact that could have on other potential adversaries.

Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy)

Ukraine is on the frontline, not only of its own battles, but of those of international democracy and law. We cannot leave the Ukrainians without in a time of need. Their fight is our fight, so let us look at what the UK Government can do. We must not allow Putin’s plan to wait until the international community loses interest to succeed. Will the UK Government prepare an International Criminal Court case against Russia for its bombardment of civilians in Ukraine? What more can the UK Government do to ensure the safety of Ukrainian skies, and to ensure a united and collective western effort in continued support of Ukraine?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Once again, I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s support and that of the SNP in ensuring that we have this strong consensus across the House in support of the Ukrainians. As he said, their fight is our fight—I strongly agree. He is also right about the ICC. As for where the Ministry of Defence is focused, he makes an important point about the threat in the air. As I said, air defence has been crucial, but of course that fight takes many forms; we need to look at not only ground-to-air systems, but drones, which have proliferated and had an extraordinary impact. We know that we cannot provide the F-16, which is the Ukrainians’ fighter of choice, but we have done what we can by providing the elementary flying training and I absolutely assure him that we will do everything we can.

Photo of Jeremy Quin Jeremy Quin Chair, Defence Committee, Chair, Defence Committee

I welcome all that the Government have been doing, including on Brimstone and the package of £245 million-worth of ammunition. However, may I ask specifically about 155 mm shells and the BAE Systems production line? Has it now got the orders to ensure that it is working at maximum capacity, on a war footing, to produce all it can to support Ukraine and indeed, in due course, our own stockpiles?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

It is a pleasure to take my first contribution from my right hon. Friend in the Chamber since he became Chairman of the Select Committee. I look forward to further discussion with him later this afternoon on other matters before the Committee. He is right to stress the importance of that contract—155 mm shells are one of the fundamental munitions we need to see both replenished for the UK armed forces and, where possible, provided into Ukraine, along with other key artillery classes. I can confirm that we signed that contract with BAE last July and it should lead to an eightfold increase in 155 mm production, initially in the Washington plant, but thereafter in south Wales. I am keen to see that get going as soon as possible.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

The MOD has clearly done a decent job of supporting Ukraine, but I still doubt that the Government as a whole are seized of the urgent critical nature of this crisis. I return to the question I asked the Secretary of State last week: why, when it was clear early in 2022 that this was going to be very much an artillery war dating back to the last century, did it take until mid-2023 to place the order for additional artillery shells? The Minister should have the answer by now.

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I refer to the previous answer I gave, where I was clear that we placed that order last July, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said; that is for our own armed forces and it is an eightfold increase. But we have provided 300,000 artillery shells into Ukraine. We have procured them, Sir. We have done that not just from this country; we have done it through rapid procurement, through Defence Equipment and Support. All I can say is that I pay tribute to that effort. We all know that we need to go further. The other point is that this is not just about what we have procured; this country has played a leading role in ensuring that other nations join us and provide more munitions. That is as much a key part of the role that we have played.

Photo of Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Conservative, Elmet and Rothwell

Last week, in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly joint session in Brussels, top military leaders described to us their concern that the EU ethical banking laws are going to stop investment in arms companies. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the UK will always ensure that the money needed to invest in making sure that Europe can protect itself against Russian aggression will be there and that the arms can be manufactured?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My right hon. Friend asks about an excellent point. Both the Secretary of State and I have commented on that. I have held meetings at the Treasury and with defence companies about the ESG—environmental, social and governance—issue, as well as with financial institutions, at Rothschild in the City, because it is extraordinary that anyone should think we should not invest in core munitions when we see now that the cause they support is peace, freedom and democracy. If we do not fund our defence sector, we simply will not be able to defend those fine principles.

Photo of Richard Foord Richard Foord Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

President Zelensky said yesterday that without new military aid from the United States, Ukraine would be unable to defend the Black sea shipping corridor, which has enabled the export of 33 million metric tonnes of Ukrainian grain. That has been enabled in part by the supply by the UK of the Storm Shadow missile and by France’s supply of the SCALP missile. What are the Government discussing with German counterparts about their potential to supply their equivalent, the Taurus missile system?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I know that the hon. Gentleman also served and speaks with expertise on these matters. He is right to raise the issue of the strategic importance of the Black sea. We have had huge progress in that area. I believe that since we reopened that corridor, through the success that the Ukrainians have had, with our support, in pushing back the Russian fleet to the east, some 19 million tonnes of grain have got through. That underlines how important that corridor is, but he is right to say that we need to look at what more we can do. Obviously, I am not going to comment on sensitive matters about individual countries’ capabilities, but he can rest assured that we continue to engage with all our allies on these points.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Conservative, Hereford and South Herefordshire

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a direct threat to Europe and of course to wider global security. As my hon. Friend will know, Russia has increased, as part of its war mobilisation, its production of shells and ammunition by some factor of 10—or it is planning to do so in the next two or three years. What conversations has he had across Europe and with NATO allies about the longer-term response to this serious challenge?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My right hon. Friend recently joined the Select Committee and I welcome him to it. He makes an excellent point. First, there is a lot of speculation about the level of production by the Russians. They have needed to increase that because they have lost a huge amount of ordnance and armoured vehicles and, tragically, a large number of personnel. On the long term, I draw his attention to the MPIs, which is where we are joining other NATO members for collective orders of ordnance. The first one we have announced is for missiles and for munitions. That is a powerful signal. We hope it will send a strong demand signal to industry in Europe, but it also sends a signal to Putin and the world that we are determined to stand together and stand up to Putin.

Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The UK has a great record of supporting Ukraine—for example, training Ukrainian troops is something we can be really proud of—but may I press the Minister on something? How much of the £2.5 billion for 2024 is being spent on Ukraine and how much is being spent on UK operational costs at NATO bases?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Armed Forces answered that in detail at oral questions. The key point is that we will not do a line-by-line breakdown of every aspect of the £2.5 billion. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is an incredibly important step forward in our support to Ukraine. As he knows, we have been able to confirm that that includes, for example, £245 million on artillery munitions and £200 million on drones. Those are incredibly important commitments, and they go with all the other efforts we have made, but we know that there is more to do, with our allies.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green

Along with a group of colleagues, I went to the US before Christmas to try to persuade the Republicans there to vote this Bill through urgently—we had a marginal effect on them. The thing I said to them was, “You are facing an axis of authoritarianism; China, North Korea, Russia and Iran are all in league together and they are winning.” When I was in Ukraine, I saw the Ukrainians taking mines out with bayonets and not having the equipment they need. Does my hon. Friend agree that this has told us that none of us is ready for what war is really all about—barbed wire, minefields and artillery shells? Does he not agree that we need to do more?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for his incredibly important efforts engaging with the US. Obviously, the positions the US takes and the decisions it makes on support are a matter for the US Government and legislature, but my right hon. Friend is right to make the wider strategic point. Surely we are united on the need to have a deterrent against all the adversaries and threats we face around the world. I sincerely hope it will not be the case, but if Russia were to make much more progress and succeed, it would embolden other adversaries. He is right about the horrors of warfare. That is why we need to invest in our own armed forces and conventional deterrent, but above all to keep supporting Ukraine as much as we possibly can.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The HALO Trust estimates that around 2 million landmines have been laid in Ukraine. Mike Newton from the HALO Trust has said:

“Ukraine cannot be rebuilt until the landmines are removed. Life itself depends on getting rid of them.”

What is the Minister doing to ensure that funds go to the demining of Ukraine? What more preventive work can we do internationally to persuade those countries that are supplying landmines to desist from doing so and to sign the landmines convention?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The hon. Lady’s excellent point about mines follows on from the point made by my right hon. Friend Sir Iain Duncan Smith. I am happy to go away and look into that to see what we are able to say about what we are doing. She will appreciate that there is also the issue of naval mines. I believe we will be looking at that, but there is some sensitivity within the maritime capability coalition; I will look into the issue further. I cannot say that there is a button I can press to stop those countries that are providing those munitions, but we know Putin keeps some rather interesting company and that we, as democracies, need to stand together to ensure we support Ukraine in this fight.

Photo of Jack Lopresti Jack Lopresti Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke

Will my hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the fantastic work being done by Defence Equipment and Support in my constituency in ensuring that the overwhelming amount of support and military equipment we have supplied arrives on time at the frontline? What can we do to speed up the process of collaboration in manufacturing in Ukraine between British and Ukrainian companies? That will be huge in the future to ensure that the Ukrainians can produce their own kit on the ground and provide a deterrent after they have beaten the Russians.

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My hon. Friend is sterling in his championing of the Ukrainian cause and of the excellent work done by DE&S in his constituency. I have visited Abbey Wood twice and there is excellent leadership under Andy Start. DE&S has been responsible for the procurement of a huge amount of munitions and materials at pace in Ukraine, but my hon. Friend is right that we also need to think about the long term and how Ukraine can start to build its own industrial base. That is why we recently had our first defence trade visit there. I am keen to see much more of that and pleased to have his support for that work.

Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

May I take the opportunity to reiterate how proud we are of our armed forces personnel, who have worked around the clock to train and support Ukrainian recruits as part of the vital Op Interflex? I urge the Government to confirm where that programme will be after the summer and to make a commitment to it for as long as it takes Ukraine to win.

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The hon. Lady makes the good point that we should pay tribute to all the personnel involved in Operation Interflex. We have provided a huge amount of training. I went to Salisbury plain to meet the Irish Guards who were training Ukrainian civilians of all backgrounds, who would have but weeks of training before returning to a pretty attritional conflict. We all need to reflect on that. It is an incredible operation that has had international support from many other nations. The hon. Lady is right that we are in it for the long term, and we will keep training Ukrainians to defend their homeland.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Conservative, Bournemouth East

I have just returned from Ukraine. There was absolutely nothing but praise for what Britain has done in providing the munitions and equipment required, and in standing up to Putin when so many others blinked at that moment. It is clear that what is happening in Ukraine will move out further. Putin is now more powerful than Stalin and is trying to emulate what Stalin did in eastern Europe. Can we agree that Europe is at war? This affects our economy and our security. We have shown leadership up to now, so can we continue by allowing frozen assets, based in the UK, belonging to Russia, to be slid across the table to Ukraine?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

As ever, my right hon. Friend makes some excellent points. I pay tribute to him and other colleagues who went to Ukraine to show that we stand 100% with Ukraine, and to show our solidarity as parliamentarians with them as a free democracy. He makes an excellent point on frozen Russian assets. The Prime Minister was clear that he wants to look at how we can do that and made the point that, obviously, we have to work internationally, particularly with the G7. Initially we will be looking at the interest earned on those assets, but we should definitely be focusing on this across Government.

Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Labour, Bermondsey and Old Southwark

Will the Government retain UK air defence capabilities supporting NATO allies on the frontline, such as Poland? Can further medical units be dispatched to treat and rehabilitate any Ukrainian or Brit injured by Russian forces?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I apologise for missing the first part of the hon. Gentleman’s question; I will write to him on that. On the second part, within the training figures I mentioned, there is significant training for medical personnel. I am happy to include that in the letter. Whether it is training medical personnel or frontline soldiers, the effort we have put in place is huge, it is international and we will do everything we can to keep it going.

Photo of James Sunderland James Sunderland Chair, Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill

The number of NATO member countries meeting the 2% GDP commitment is expected to rise from seven last year to 18 later this year. Indications from the US suggest that the US Government are more likely to release an expected $60 billion-worth of commitment to Ukraine once Republican congressmen have had their primaries. Will the Minister confirm that the British defence industry at home is now on a war footing and that we are best able to spend UOR—urgent operational requirement—money and deliver it to Ukraine?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My hon. Friend as ever asks an excellent question. As he highlighted, this has to be an international effort. There is a tendency to overplay the negative voices, but my experience from international meetings is of an overwhelming consensus, from small nations to large nations, and of a huge desire to keep supporting Ukraine in every way possible. Obviously, the role of the US is fundamental. I can give him the assurance that we will work with the British defence industry to ramp up production. We will be bringing forward a munitions strategy soon and the goal of always-on production will be most in the interests of both the military and our defence sector.

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (International Trade), Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

Along with colleagues from across the House, I have just returned from a sobering visit to Ukraine, during which we heard about what some refer to as “the slow yes” from a number of our allies on providing military supplies. That is costing lives on the frontline and limiting military options. Will the Minister tell us what specific recent efforts the Government have made to convey a real sense of urgency to key allies? Will he urge his Cabinet colleagues to redouble their efforts in this respect?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I assure the hon. Lady that at every international meeting and engagement we attend, whether multilaterally or bilaterally, we do everything possible to encourage our allies to join us in support. As I said in answer to the previous question, although there is a tendency to pick out negative voices, the overwhelming consensus among our allies is to want to support and do more. There will always be a debate about how quickly we can get stuff into line. We have done everything possible to get our support out as quickly as possible, including predating the war itself, so we can be proud of our efforts. I am acutely aware that we need to do more, particularly in concert with our allies.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Chair, Environmental Audit Sub-Committee on Polar Research, Chair, Environmental Audit Sub-Committee on Polar Research

Partly as a result of the magnificent effort we have made in the past couple of years, our stockpiles have gone and our warehouses are empty. I very much welcome the Government announcement about £245 million for artillery shells described by the Minister, but does he agree there have been a series of legalistic and bureaucratic delays to the issuing of contracts? British manufacturers are frustrated, because they are unable to crack on with producing the kind of goods we need.

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I would not say that the cupboard is empty. We have to have our own levels of holdings for our own military, but we have gifted as much as we can. The obvious example is the AS-90 that we gifted; we rapidly replaced that with the interim artillery solution from Sweden, the Archer gun. I am pleased to say that earlier this morning I announced the launch of the next stage of the new medium helicopter competition, which is an important procurement for the UK military. That speaks to the fact that we are still carrying out core procurement for ourselves.

In addition to 155 mm shells, we have placed orders for lightweight multirole missiles, Starstreak and a whole range of other munitions so we can replenish our stocks. We should not be afraid to say that what we have donated, supported and procured internationally, which is a huge part, has played a massive role that we should be proud of, while recognising the need to do as much as we can, with our allies, going forward.

Photo of Sarah Green Sarah Green Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales)

I was privileged to join colleagues on a cross-party delegation to Ukraine this weekend. The shortage of equipment, ammunition and supplies came up time and again. How are the UK Government monitoring and holding accountable those involved in the supply chain to prevent delay, misuse or diversion of military equipment?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

That is a good question. Obviously, much of this work is happening internationally and in-country with Ukraine. I cannot go into operational details, but, absolutely, it is one thing to procure the equipment and capabilities—whether that is buying internationally, gifting or contributing to international funds, as many countries do, in order that other countries may do that—but we need to make sure that it all gets to the frontline.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford

In all the discussions that we have had about military hardware, it is easy to forget the human cost of this war, not least the 20,000 children stolen by the Russians and never returned to their families. As we said on day one, if Putin wins in Ukraine, he will not stop there; other countries will be next. That is why it is vital that the UK and allies continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons that it needs. But Russia must also pay. May I ask the Government to double down on the work that they are doing to use the proceeds of frozen Russian assets to pay for this war and the reconstruction of Ukraine, so that Russia knows that it cannot get away with this?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My right hon. Friend, who speaks with great passion, is right to talk about the need to hold Russia to account. We have said that repeatedly. We have said that in reference both to the war itself and to specific actions, such as those involving Alexei Navalny and so on. We are under no illusion about the nature of that regime and what would happen if it were to succeed. We have had that view right from the beginning, and it is brilliant that so many countries have joined us in that effort. I strongly believe that without our efforts Ukraine would not still be in the fight. How do we keep the Ukrainians there? We must keep providing the munitions that we have described, keep training the personnel in Interflex, and keep ensuring that our allies join us in all of those efforts.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Independent, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

The US State Department has reportedly calculated that North Korea has delivered 10,000 containers of munitions to Russia for deployment in Ukraine. What can be done to disrupt the supply chain?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

That is not a straightforward question to answer. As I said right at the beginning about the things that ultimately come from military intelligence, these are sensitive matters, but the hon. Gentleman can rest assured that these are priorities that we look at very closely with our international partners.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

I, too, joined my hon. Friend Bob Seely and other colleagues in Ukraine at the weekend. The point about the “slow yes” to the provision of kit and funds is well made by Dame Nia Griffith. As well as conventional warfare, the Russians are increasingly using cyber warfare, recently taking out virtually the whole mobile network, with implications for the frontline as well. Central to countering that is advanced satellite technology provided by British companies, which also has applications for mine detection. Having recently had a spread of 30 metres, they can now get it down to 5 cm with heat detection devices. These are crucial, so can we make sure that we do not just limit our support to conventional warfare ammunition, but look at high-tech and cyber warfare, which will be increasingly necessary?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. We knew already that the battle space is contested and that forces need to be closely integrated, but what Ukraine has shown above all else is the extraordinary extent to which electronic warfare plays a role. The mass jamming across the domain has to be factored into any kit that is used, and it will have to be factored into procurement going forward. We must be aware of these developments. We have our own brilliant resources, such as the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, and there are things that we have done that are sensitive and that have provided support as far as possible, but he is right to talk in particular about the importance of the space domain. The UK is lucky to have a strong, sovereign space industry, supporting defence in the civil sector. Going forward, we need to be aware of how warfare is changing and be able to respond rapidly with our procurement.

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

I thank the Minister for his helpful and encouraging answers. Having read in the press recently about the price of military supplies and the protracted situation in Ukraine, it is clear that help with military supplies is essential. As I understand it, missiles can cost as much as £1 million each. Is there any more that can be done with our NATO allies, financially, physically and militarily, to help ensure that Ukraine continues to have the means to stave off the ceaseless attack by Russia?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

As ever, we save the best till last. [Interruption.] Oh, the hon. Gentleman is second to last, my apologies. Nevertheless, I shall always say that when he is called to speak.

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point about the cost. When we talk about the multilateral procurement initiative, we could argue that it is like a bulk buy between nations. Obviously, we want to see economies of scale for that in exchange for the massive demand signal that we will be providing for European industry. However, the key point is not just to send a demand signal, but, ultimately, to send a deterrent signal. If we in Europe rally round in European NATO along with our US allies and step up the pace on industrial reinvigoration in the defence space, that will in itself be part of the deterrent message that we send to Putin.

Photo of Tom Randall Tom Randall Conservative, Gedling

Along with colleagues from across the House, I was in Ukraine at the weekend, and I was struck by the gratitude of the Ukrainians to the UK. I was also struck by the words of General Wesley Clark, speaking at the Yalta European strategy conference, when he made a prediction that we are in the second year of a six-year war. If that prediction is accurate, will the Minister outline what efforts are under way to locate compatible ammunition supplies from countries with older stocks, and does he agree that it is important to get supplies out of stockpiles and on to the frontline in Ukraine, so that we can tip this war in Ukraine’s favour?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for joining other colleagues in going out to Ukraine, showing the solidarity that we have for it and the strong cross-parliamentary consensus. Often when we talk about procurement for Ukraine, there can be some misunderstanding. Just to be clear, an awful lot of the munitions that have been provided were sourced internationally, but we do not necessarily go into the minute detail of that. He is absolutely right; initially that meant providing what was largely ex-Soviet stock, but in the long term we want to enable the Ukrainians to produce munitions to NATO standard. We want to work closely with them on that, and that is how we will get their industry into order so that they can sustain their own ability to fight over the long term.