4 Lord Harries of Pentregarth debates involving the Ministry of Defence

Armed Forces: LGBT Veterans

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
Monday 17th October 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, and to my noble friend Lord Lexden for their unstinting commitment to these issues. To start with the first part of the noble Lord’s question, I do not think there is much I can add to what I have already said to my noble friend. It is within the scope of the inquiry by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, to look at all the impacts on personnel who were dismissed. They may include social, family and financial impacts. That is why it is very important that we let the noble and learned Lord conduct his inquiry and then observe his recommendations.

On Part 12 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, the scheme is led by the Home Office and the MoD. We are committed to bringing those provisions into force as soon as possible. Officials are already working on the necessary technical criteria—and they are fairly complex—to ensure that the legislation ultimately works as smoothly as possible. We expect to launch the extended scheme in the first quarter of 2023.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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Is the Minister able to say when this review might be published?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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The review period for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, is from June this year to May next year.

Ukraine: Lethal Weapons

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
Tuesday 5th April 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My noble friend articulates a powerful sentiment; that is why there is such resolve on the part of the United Kingdom as a bilateral friend of Ukraine and in the global response—whether that is the response to calls for specific equipment and kit or the application of sanctions and financial restrictions. It indicates just how isolated Putin has become and how serious the consequences are for this ill-judged and disastrous expedition.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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The re-election of Viktor Orbán in Hungary highlights again the very unhelpful and negative attitude shown by that country with respect to support for Ukraine. Does Her Majesty’s Government have any leverage or influence to persuade the Hungarian Government that in the long run, far from being a friend, Putin will be a threat to Hungary as well?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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That strays very much outwith my immediate area of responsibility and into that of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Ahmad would be happy to respond in more detail to the noble and right reverend Lord.

Ukraine

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
Friday 25th February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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Yesterday was a sad, bad day for Ukraine, Europe and the world. First, our feelings are of course with the Ukrainian people, who are in for a prolonged period of struggle and suffering.

I fully support everything that the Government are doing by way of sanctions. Whether the sanctions should be more than they are, I leave to other people who are better qualified than me. Put simply, they will have to be applied not just massively and rigorously but over a potentially long period. Putin has built up a war chest of some $630 billion to see him through the immediate effects of sanctions. Then, of course, his policy is to create facts on the ground and see whether he gets away with it if he holds on long enough.

Russian forces are still in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, camped only 20 miles from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Even now, a long time after the 2008 war, they are still in Crimea; of course, they were also in eastern Europe for a long time. Putin will create facts on the ground and, as the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, said, the likely scenario of a puppet Government means that this will last perhaps years, even decades. The question is: have we the will and the staying power to keep going for a long period and not allow everything from Putin’s point of view simply to go back to business more or less as normal?

The invasion of Ukraine by Putin creates a tragic dilemma, which I call the nuclear paradox. Massive arsenals of nuclear weapons owned by NATO and Russia make a major nuclear war morally impossible yet, at the same time, make acts of aggression below that more possible. We have that kind of situation in Ukraine. President Biden has said, no doubt rightly, that we will not be putting troops into Ukraine, which simply leaves us with sanctions. The question is not only whether those sanctions will be massive and rigorously applied but whether we are prepared to sustain them for a long period.

One of the features of the crisis over recent months that I have found particularly distressing is the amount of totally false information that has been fed to the Russian people—the number of grotesque lies, as other noble Lords have said. Sadly, despite some heroic resistance to the Putin regime, his popularity in Russia has remained high. We do not know what it will be after the invasion of Ukraine, but I would not be surprised if that massive state propaganda machine has twisted the minds of so many people. This brings to the fore the importance of truth in public life. No doubt every power has its own form of propaganda; that is inevitable. However, if we have a free press and media, at least in the long run those lies can be exposed for what they are. We do stand for something worthwhile, which in the end comes down to truth in the public sphere.

Ukraine has been carved up and divided between many empires over the centuries: Polish-Lithuanian, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and Tsarist. However, both in 1917, before the Soviets took over, and at the end of the Cold War in 1991, it voted decisively for its own autonomy to rule its own affairs. It is quite true, as Putin rightly emphasises, that there are long historic, cultural and religious links between Ukraine and Russia. Orthodox Christianity came to Russia from Kyivan Rus’. Yet invading a country is hardly the way to strengthen those historic, cultural and religious links.

Finally, I return to my first point. I have often returned to the words that TS Eliot wrote in 1939, reflecting on the events of 1938 in Munich. He said that he and many others were shaken in a way from which one does not recover. It was not so much the politics and the events but a general plight. It was not the criticism of a particular Government but a doubt about the validity of a particular civilisation. Did our society,

“which had always been so assured of its superiority and rectitude”,

have

“any beliefs more essential than a belief in compound interest and the maintenance of dividends?”

The struggle from 1939 to 1945 showed that we did. Today, with the direct use of military force rightly ruled out, that question will be even more searching now than it was then.

Army Restructuring: Future Soldier

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
Thursday 25th November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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I thank the Minister very much for her Statement. Like other noble Lords, I pay tribute to our Armed Forces, particularly those who have been serving in recent years in Afghanistan under such testing and difficult circumstances.

Obviously, the main thrust of the Statement—rapid deployment and cutting-edge technology, particularly cyberwarfare—is absolutely right. However, as one of the diminishing number of people who served in the mid-1950s, when, if my memory serves me correctly, we had 1 million soldiers in the British Army of the Rhine alone, it comes as quite a shock that we are now talking about an Army of only 100,000 or so. What particularly worries me is that, in recent years, recruitment, even to this number, has not been satisfactory; there has always been a shortfall. What new strategies are there to ensure that this number of 100,000 is at least maintained? Of course, in this new Army, reservists, as the Minister rightly said, will play a significant role, with something like 27,000 of them. Is the Minister satisfied that the number of people with the right qualifications are coming forward for the reserve element in the Army?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I thank the noble and right reverend Lord very much indeed. He raises two important points. On recruitment, he is correct that challenges with recruitment were identified, and the approach to recruitment changed—and, actually, the position has turned around and is very encouraging. Part of what we are doing is to try to ensure that the Army represents an attractive career with an attractive future. Therefore, we are optimistic that recruitment will not be an issue and there will continue to be a good rate of applications to join the Army. We have no reason to think that that will not materialise.

On reservists and skills, one consequence of this reconfiguration, as I said earlier to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is to make this a much more attractive prospect for reservists, for two reasons. It gives them a sense that they are valued, acknowledged and regarded as part of the scene, as it were; whereas I think before that they may have felt that they were on the periphery, additional when needed but not at the centre of activity. This turns that around and makes sure that they are part of a whole-force approach.

The other interesting thing is, with the changes that have been introduced and some of the innovations that have been implemented in very recent times, we are now offering greater flexibility to reservists so they can choose, along with their employers, what is a suitable period of commitment for them. It used to be much more rigid: it was a short period away and then back to the full-time job. We are trying to make sure that that is much more flexible. We think that that will also appeal to a lot of people, depending on where they are in their career in the outside world, and that should facilitate heightened interest in the reserves, and, I hope, encourage more people to sign up to be reservists, in the knowledge that we are tailoring a system that is designed to suit them and their employers, as well as benefiting our whole-force approach.