Ukraine Update Debate

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Department: Ministry of Defence
Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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First and foremost, 2030 is the key point, because we have to pass through 2.5% to get to 3%. The reality is that we need to make sure that the rise to 3% is done sustainably. I cannot be given a blob of money in 2029 and be expected to buy a warship in five weeks. There has to be a proper, graduated response. I will make sure the response includes 2.5% en route to 3% of GDP.

It is also important to remind the House that being part of NATO helps us to achieve global mass, or certainly mass within the north Atlantic, and enables us to deploy very large numbers of troops, if necessary. On paper, NATO still far outnumbers Russian forces. Since Russia has significantly degraded nearly all of its land armed forces, the ratio is even more imbalanced in the favour of NATO.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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It gives me great confidence that we have heard a competent and trusted Secretary of State and a competent and trusted shadow Secretary of State having an intelligent conversation about this issue, followed by a question and answer session. That is what our constituents expect to happen in Parliament, as opposed to recent events.

May I push the Defence Secretary a little? The credibility of our armed forces relies on how many men and women they have and, as he knows, many years ago I campaigned for a 100,000 minimum. I still have no answer on whether the 72,000 aim in the most recent Conservative party policy is still working. I support the 3% target for expenditure; and please can we have more aid going to the civilian population of the places that the Russian air force is bombarding?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. If, at the end of this, we do not help Ukraine rebuild itself, it will all have been for nothing. It is important that, alongside the military response, we help Ukraine’s economy get on its feet. Ukraine has the means—it has agricultural produce, et cetera. As the hon. Gentleman says, Ukraine’s military and other values are different from Russia’s, but the economy, the poverty and all the other issues are also important.

On the credibility of our armed forces, we have to make sure that, whatever their size, our armed forces are properly protected, perfectly formed at the forefront of capabilities and able to interoperate and integrate with our biggest allies. That is as important as the size of our armed forces. Russia went for size, and its armed forces cannot talk to each other or defend themselves. For all Russia’s boasts about how many BMPs and T-72s it has, they all ended up dead or broken on the road to Kyiv.

There is an important balance to strike but, like the hon. Gentleman, I believe we also need to invest to deliver armed forces of scale so that we are able to be present around the world to deter our enemies, and so we can make choices about being in the Baltics and in Poland and in the Pacific and in Africa, where violent extremism is getting bigger and threatens the stability of Africa.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I am having a meeting with the Treasury this afternoon. If he would like to come with me, I would be delighted to take him. We have been in the House together for many years, and he is formidable at delivering what he wishes to achieve. I also remember him being formidable to his own Front Bench at certain times when they needed to hear the right messages. He would be very welcome. If I could squeeze him into the Treasury meeting, I would.