Red Sea Telecommunication Cables

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Thursday 14th March 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

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Earl of Minto Portrait The Earl of Minto (Con)
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The noble Lord is right that proliferation is an issue. As has been mentioned, the amount of data that travels through these cables is so significant that it requires all the protection it can get. The question of landing sites is very much part of the overall security resilience that we have been talking about. I can only imagine that they are going to become more and more important as we continue to suffer such an unstable global situation.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, the Minister mentioned the Houthis. What assessment have the Government made of the ability of the Houthis to replace the weapons they have used or those that have been destroyed by Royal Air Force and other allied attacks? It is important to know whether the Houthis will be able to continue the sorts of attacks that they started some months ago.

Earl of Minto Portrait The Earl of Minto (Con)
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The noble and gallant Lord is right. The Government’s approach to addressing the issue of the Houthis has not really changed. It is all about increasing diplomatic engagement, ending the illegal flow of arms—I think we are all fully in support of that—cutting off the financial resources of the Houthis and helping the people of Yemen, who need support.

Situation in the Red Sea

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Thursday 29th February 2024

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Earl of Minto Portrait The Earl of Minto (Con)
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I admit that I look at this from a slightly different perspective. We are launching a missile in self-defence at an incoming attack vehicle, which is attempting to hit something behind us, which is probably worth half a billion pounds and well in excess of 100 lives. Having moved into position, there is no question that we are doing absolutely the right thing in deterring, degrading and reducing the Houthis’ effectiveness. On lessons from Ukraine, I assure the House that there is an enormous amount of activity going on in precisely that area, about what action can be taken to update and diversify all the weaponry at our disposal.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, the noble Earl mentioned the intention to disrupt the Houthis’ ability to make these attacks. What steps are being taken, if any, to stop the shipment to Yemen, from Iran or elsewhere, of offensive weapons for use by the Houthis?

Earl of Minto Portrait The Earl of Minto (Con)
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The noble and gallant Lord makes an interesting point. As part of the international force dedicated to degrading the Houthis’ effectiveness, our partners are diverting and searching vehicles, both at sea and elsewhere, to ensure that as much as possible can be stopped from arriving in Yemen. At the same time, we are looking at disrupting the manufacturing capability behind this, which of course is based in Iran.

Red Sea Update

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Monday 5th February 2024

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. In the interests of legal clarity for our Armed Forces, this Statement confirms the right to self-defence, which is well recognised internationally and in proportion. The Houthis launched an attack on HMS “Diamond”, which was successfully repelled. This gave firm legal grounds for our first kinetic response. Have further attacks been mounted against His Majesty’s ships or UK-flagged vessels that would deserve further UK self-defence responses, or is the threat of further attacks from the Houthi leadership sufficient legally to justify further kinetic responses from His Majesty’s Armed Forces? Noble Lords should be in no doubt that I support the present operations; I am just seeking a clear statement of their international legal justification.

Earl of Minto Portrait The Earl of Minto (Con)
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I thank the noble and gallant Lord. My understanding is that, under Article 51 of the charter of the United Nations, the force out there is completely entitled to defend itself. The very threat to it and to the sailors on-board is sufficient; we have that cover.

Ministry of Defence: Equipment Plan

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Thursday 7th December 2023

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Earl of Minto Portrait The Earl of Minto (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with much of what the noble Lord has said. One of the key points about the NAO report is that it does not reflect the aspiration to increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP when economic and fiscal conditions allow. If one puts that back in, it obviously completely changes the finances.

On the question of consistency, I am in entire agreement. I am very new in this role. I have looked at budgets for the last 40 years and I have never seen a budget that resembles anything like this one, and that is not just the absolute figures. The way in which it is constructed means that it is very difficult to get to exactly the way in which the money moves around. That is something that I commit to the House that I will learn and then lose not much more sleep over.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, can the Minister confirm that none of the cost of the equipment provided to the Government of Ukraine has been or will be met from the defence budget, and that that will include any restocking of war stocks that have been gifted to Ukraine?

Earl of Minto Portrait The Earl of Minto (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble and gallant Lord for that question. I can confirm that all equipment gifted to Ukraine is well without these figures. Your Lordships will know that, as well as the £5 billion that was granted by the Chancellor, an additional nearly £0.5 billion was given to restock the stockpiles that are required.

King’s Speech

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Wednesday 15th November 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, I too warmly welcome the noble Earl to his new appointment and join in the praise and admiration for his predecessor’s work in the Chamber and beyond. She was quite outstanding.

One much-invoked word in speaking about security issues is “strategy”, often coupled with another word, such as “defence”, “diplomatic”, “economic” or “operational”, or even “grand” strategy. A poor relation of this strategy family is the “exit” strategy. Far from being the poor relation, it should be one that is alive and well: never ignored, never allowed to wither on the vine. For clarity, by “exit”, I refer not just to military disengagements, though perhaps these are the most vital, but to a variety of situations where there has been a departure from the norm and the current state is non-sustainable and/or non-desirable.

Too often, the pressure of events, or their surprise occurrence, means that total effort is concentrated on the immediate response. At some later date, thought and planning get to focus on exit or withdrawal and its aftermath. However, early thought, ideally even before any major commitment of effort or force, should be given to that aftermath. Often, such premeditation may not be possible, but when it is, as was the case in the first Gulf War, it can be immensely invaluable. Whether government activity has been based on earlier contingency planning or rapid response to a threatening development, the record of forward thinking on how to end the deployment or involvement and manage its aftermath is sadly lacking. Going back to World War II, did the decision to insist on unconditional surrender really take enough account of the aftermath once hostilities ended? One can appreciate the strength of feelings at the time, but it left considerable burdens which only the victor powers could then support.

Since World War II, we have tended to be tied as an ally to the approach of the United States or to the collective views of NATO. Occasionally, as with Vietnam, the Government decided not to deploy forces, so no exit strategy was called for. If we had deployed, the decision on when to disengage would not have been politically possible until the US itself finally did so. Some would say that was maybe a sensible decision on our part. It underlines one of the most important considerations before getting involved: how much may we be sacrificing our own freedom of choice?

When it came to the first Gulf War, there were months between the first aircraft deployments following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 and the start of hostilities in February 1991. In early discussions with my opposite number then, General Colin Powell, it was clear that we were on the same page. Once the military objective was achieved—forcing the Iraqis out of Kuwait and sufficiently weakening the Iraqi Republican Guard and its air force that a re-invasion of Kuwait would not be possible—we should move back home. A military exit strategy was established. This was good for the hosting nation, Saudi Arabia—which was experiencing considerable qualms about hosting so many foreign forces with their different cultures, and of course the expenses that it was meeting—good for other neighbouring states, and especially good for our own forces. Regrettably, the forward planning for the aftermath of military withdrawal fell far short of what was required.

Experiences later in Iraq and then in Afghanistan lacked the clarity that should be the bedrock of exit strategies, wherever it can be achieved. The abrupt and messy departure from Kabul in 2021 was a poor end to many years of bravery and commitment.

In wondering whether Israel will have a heavy ongoing responsibility in Gaza once the shooting stops, I hope it is working too on its strategy after getting what it claims to want: the unconditional surrender by Hamas.

War in Ukraine

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Wednesday 25th October 2023

(9 months ago)

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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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As my noble friend will be aware, the combination of the two integrated reviews, not least the integrated review refresh of this year, demonstrated His Majesty’s Government’s analysis of what we consider the challenge position to be globally. That reaffirmed that our primary objective is Euro-Atlantic security but of course Euro-Atlantic security is, frankly, indivisible from Indo-Pacific security. Therefore, we are active on all fronts to use all the measures available to us to support friends and allies who believe in the same values that we believe in. That includes calling out activity that we find unacceptable. For example, we have called out China’s activity in the South China seas and called out the deeply concerning situation in Xinjiang with regard to the treatment of Uighurs. In the United Nations, we regularly call out the activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

I reassure my noble friend that, across a whole range of fronts, we are very clear about what we need to do to stand up for rights, values and democratic freedoms. Encouragingly, we do not do that alone—we do it in concert with very important friends and allies.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, UK defence spending needs long-term clarity. What assessment have His Majesty’s Government made of the cost of current levels of support for Ukraine over the next two years and its impact on provision for UK defence over a similar period?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I have been able to indicate to the Chamber, and reiterate it to the noble and gallant Lord, that we are satisfied that we have the resource not only to attend to our indigenous domestic security and defence needs but to continue affording the help that we have been affording to Ukraine, for example. The noble and gallant Lord will be aware of figures that have been settled for last year and this year in respect of that aid. I do not want to pre-empt the Autumn Statement—it would be quite wrong to do that—but I reassure him that the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, the past Secretary of State for Defence and the current Secretary of State for Defence are absolutely aligned on wanting to continue our support of Ukraine.

Armed Forces

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Thursday 7th September 2023

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Soames, on his fine introduction to this important debate. Two MoD reports published this summer received much less attention than the revised DCP. These were concerned with personnel issues, the continuous attitude survey, and the very comprehensive Agency and Agility report. No matter how much is spent on equipment, fighting platforms and war stocks, none will be any use without the men and women of our Armed Forces who use their training, skills and commitment to use them. Personnel are often rightly singled out for praise and admiration by Ministers and others. In return, I believe Ben Wallace deserves praise for his fine performance as Defence Secretary at a particularly difficult time.

As time is short, I return to the Agency and Agility report. In the Written Statement to Parliament on 19 June 2023, the Minister agreed with the report’s analysis and conclusions. The author’s covering note to the Defence Secretary said that he knew that the Chiefs of Staff and other senior leaders were

“committed to the change set out in this report”.

The report sets forth with a following wind in its sails. I wonder whether it will reach its destination. The last major look at terms of service, and much else to do with personnel, was the Bett report way back in 1994-95. He recommended full acceptance and no cherry picking. It took the Government nearly two years to respond and more than a decade to implement, and then only in part. It is still early days, but have the Government set themselves any target date for a response?

In the vignettes at the end of the report, every individual is expressing job satisfaction. Yet this critical aspect, contributing to good morale, could be even better highlighted in the body of the report. Working for government will hardly ever be paid more than is likely to be available in the private sector for comparable tasks; it will probably be less, even when making adjustment for pension expectations. So the suggestion that expertise could be financially rewarded regardless of rank will not be the whole story. Rank, too, has status and reward, as well as more pay, as has job satisfaction and working as part of a team.

Long experience of adversity and antipathy to risk taking with public funds may raise difficulties with its encouragement, which Haythornthwaite, the author, proposes. His report recognised the importance in operations of the chain of command, underpinned by service ethos. He seems, perhaps unfairly, to ascribe less importance to ethos in peacetime settings. More thought is given to what is in it for the individual and less to what obligations and undertakings must be given in return to reflect the 24/7 commitment and the Armed Forces Act. His people valuation proposal must have this. It is unique for the Armed Forces. He uses a catchphrase several times to encapsulate his approach:

“Think big, start small, scale fast”.


For the MoD, or any government department, thinking big is a policy ambition. “Start small” is the classic pilot “see if it works” approach. But “scale fast” is rarer than hens’ teeth, maybe triggered only by a pandemic or war. Even the proxy war in Ukraine has not seen procurement scaled fast. Test of success of this report will be delivery of “scale fast”.

This timely report deserves a proactive approach and a determination to take it forward. New thinking of this kind is more essential than ever to get the best from the far too small number of operational platforms and weapons stocks to hand. I was pleased to note the positive references to the Armed Forces covenant. It deserves far more than government is so far prepared to state in statute.

Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committees Bill

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Tuesday 5th September 2023

(10 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Moved by
1: Clause 1, page 2, line 3, at end insert—
“(i) advising on revisions to or the restructuring of the War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Chamber.”
Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, I wish to speak to my probing amendment. I had thought to speak in the gap during this Bill’s Second Reading when I suddenly realised that there was a connection with an issue that I had dealt with some 15 years ago. However, regrettably, I arrived too late, having missed the opening remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Lancaster. I am therefore most grateful for the indulgence of the House to my tabling a probing amendment about possible VAPC responsibilities in this excellent Private Member’s Bill.

I have intervened a number of times in the past over proposed changes to the arrangements for the PAT— Pensions Appeal Tribunal—in England and Wales. In 2008—15 years ago—following the passing of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, the Government intended by secondary legislation to do away with the long-standing PAT in England and Wales, first introduced in 1919, and allocate its work to a social entitlement chamber of a First-tier Tribunal. This was part of a wide-ranging government restructuring of tribunals. This change seemed totally wrong and at odds with treating the affairs of serving personnel and veterans in an appropriate manner. The outgoing PAT team—the experts—to a man was against its work passing to a civilian-type tribunal dealing with social benefits and other civilian claims.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister very warmly and sincerely for a very comprehensive response. It will need reading again in Hansard to take the full strength of it. She has been very courteous and kind, and I appreciate the effort that has gone into making this response. I am well aware that any amendment to a Private Member’s Bill could lead to its death before Prorogation. This Bill, under the excellent efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Lancaster, has been in progress for some years, and it is right that it should go on. I will have no difficulty at all in withdrawing my amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Ukraine: Ammunition and Missiles

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Monday 24th July 2023

(1 year ago)

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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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The noble Lord will be aware of two things. There has been an extensive supply of weapons to Ukraine, evidenced by the recent Written Statement that I laid before this House on 20 July. He will also be aware that there has been an overall challenge with the industry, experienced by other NATO members, because some of them were not production ready; we know that. The MoD has engaged closely. The industry is now in a much healthier state and I hope the recent list of orders, which I indicated, reflects that much healthier state and that the MoD is satisfied that, along with our NATO partners, industry is now geared up to supply what is needed.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, how many of the various types of ammunition and other missiles that were ordered were ordered from UK producers and how many from overseas?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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The recent munitions contract for the 155-millimetre artillery shells is with BAE Systems, and part of this agreement involves an order for 30-millimetre cannon rounds and 5.56-millimetre rifle rounds. We have also placed orders with Thales—that is for the NLAWs—and there is a lot of activity now with our UK manufacturers.

Defence Command Paper Refresh

Lord Craig of Radley Excerpts
Wednesday 19th July 2023

(1 year ago)

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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his kind remarks about my colleague and friend Ben Wallace. I will convey them to him and direct him to Hansard. I know he will be much comforted by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, and I know he will not bear any resentment that the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, enjoyed what has eluded him. He is looking remarkably free and easy. He is looking positively liberated, so I think he is clearly anticipating with great pleasure whatever lies ahead.

I omitted to respond to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, raised at the beginning of his remarks about an opportunity to debate this in the autumn. The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, has just articulated a very similar sentiment, which reminded me. When the noble Lord previously passionately expressed his disquiet and dissatisfaction with the amount of time devoted in this Chamber to debate on the Ukraine war, I did convey that, and I fully understand that this paper is a very significant component of our defence plans. Again, I will take this back direct to the Leader and the Chief Whip and say that there is clearly an appetite for more time to be set aside. Your Lordships will understand that in this House we do that through the usual channels. I would appreciate it if your Lordships would convey the same message through your avenues on your party Benches, because I think the Leader and the Chief Whip would find that helpful.

I am very clear about the significance of where we are now, with another war in Europe, as the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, indicated—an illegal conflict in Ukraine. The pivotal decisions that now lie in front of defence, our change of direction and how we will take forward this new model, genuinely require debate and discussion. I am very sympathetic to that, so I reassure both noble Lords that I hear what they are saying and I will repeat that as cogently as I can.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, the refresh paper makes ambitious and encouraging claims for improving many defence issues. I am told, indeed, that the paper says “We will” nearly 300 times. Let us hope that the many advances in defence outlined will remain fully funded, and that it does not suffer the underfunded fates of so many of its predecessors. Can the Minister confirm whether the improvements trailed rely on firm delivery of the aspirational future 2.5% defence budget? Bearing in mind the increases due to inflation, are these also factored into the envisaged future programme?

Of particular interest are the many steps intended to improve on procurement—surely a vital issue following the recent Defence Committee’s scathing report on procurement entitled It is Broke—and It’s Time to Fix It. Many of the steps outlined make good sense: speeding up the processes; bringing industry in sooner; ensuring that there is production continuity, for example by maintaining a continuous shipbuilding pipeline, or avoiding skills fade by maintaining production lines for longer. Occasionally, it seems to be attempting to ride two horses at once, procurement being

“Allied by Design and national by exception”—

except for the use of homegrown technologies to reduce the risks of vulnerabilities to global supply chains. Does the Minister have any additional figure for the greater support of industry envisaged in this developing programme?

Reference is also made to increasing efforts to deliver an air and missile defence approach. Ukraine’s experience has rightly focused minds on this major gap in UK defence. What timescale is envisaged to bring this into operation?