73 Barry Sheerman debates involving the Ministry of Defence

Oral Answers to Questions

Barry Sheerman Excerpts
Monday 25th March 2024

(3 weeks, 4 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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My hon. Friend asks an excellent question. I welcome the valuable contribution of GE in his constituency in supplying high-tech motors, including for Royal Navy ships, such as Type 26 frigates and Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. It is precisely because the Ministry of Defence recognises the importance of GE’s Rugby facility that we were pleased to reach an agreement with the company in 2019 to ensure that those motors continued to be manufactured there. Finally, he is right about export. It is such a key part of our new integrated procurement model, because it boosts industrial resilience and prosperity in constituencies such as his, while strengthening international alliances, such as, in this case, with the people of Singapore and the Singapore navy.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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The Secretary of State will know that Huddersfield is a centre for defence industries; we have David Brown Gears and Reliance Precision, for example. I talk to them regularly. They say to me that one of the things that they miss is trained personnel. The Army, Navy and Air Force used to be the biggest trainer of personnel in the country. The diminished level of training in the armed services is reflected in the sector, which cannot get enough highly trained people to employ.

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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I am aware of those companies, which do an excellent job supporting the supply chain, particularly for our primes and for key programmes, especially naval programmes. I do not recognise the hon. Gentleman’s description of training. As he will be aware, defence is the biggest employer of apprentices in the country. We are doing everything we can to support that. The key is to have a close relationship with industry, and to bring it into our requirements early on, so that it can plan and deliver the supply signal, particularly for skills, to match our demand signal.

UK Armed Forces

Barry Sheerman Excerpts
Monday 11th March 2024

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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First of all, we have increased defence spending. Crucially, the last spending review saw the largest allocation of spending to defence since the cold war. Yes, we have set an aspiration of 2.5%, and the answer to when that will happen is: when economic conditions allow. It would be imprudent to commit to such a level of spending if we did not think it could be sustained. The worst thing would be to have that spending for maybe one or two years, and then have to go backwards because we did not think it was sustainable. This is about balancing affordability against commitment, but we need to be absolutely clear that at over £50 billion, this is the most we have ever spent on defence. There is an extraordinary effort in support of Ukraine, and we have highly capable armed forces who are making an extraordinary contribution to NATO, including through the latest NATO exercise, and will continue to do so.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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I do not want to make too much play of your earlier remarks, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I was born on the night the House was bombed and this Chamber was burned out. As I have listened to the Minister, I have been saying to myself—I hope that he will recall this—that he represents the party of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, but now that the world is more dangerous than I can recall it being in all my years, we are not able to defend the country adequately. I say to Members on both sides of the House that this is a wake-up call; we must act now.

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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I pay respect to the hon. Gentleman’s longevity and seniority, and to the fact that on the day he was born, the House was bombed, during whichever war it was—I think it was the second world war. He said that we are unable to defend ourselves, and I totally and utterly reject that claim. If Putin had succeeded in his invasion of Ukraine, yes, we would have been looking at a situation similar to that in the late 1930s, but that invasion has not succeeded. The reason for that is the involvement of this Government, who took extraordinary steps to train Ukrainians; provided vital munitions, such as next-generation light anti-tank weapons, before the war started; ensured that we were the first country to provide tanks; and encouraged other nations to provide enormous amounts of arms. Without that, the world would be an even less safe place, but I accept that it is becoming more dangerous, which is why we are supporting our armed forces, and why we are playing such a massive role in NATO’s Steadfast Defender exercise.

Oral Answers to Questions

Barry Sheerman Excerpts
Monday 19th February 2024

(2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Andrew Murrison Portrait Dr Murrison
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The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the importance of service accommodation. He will be aware of the huge Government investment to improve the quality of both service-family accommodation and single-living accommodation. Our people deserve the best. It is public knowledge that they have not had the best for some considerable time, but we are committed to remedying that for his constituents.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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Does the Minister not wake up in the morning sometimes and want to check in on reality? We have had seven Secretaries of State for Defence since 2010 and absolute turmoil in our armed forces. Why would people join the British Army when this Government have run us down to 72,000 serving personnel? I campaigned when the number went below 100,000! The Minister should wake up and invest in the defence of our country in a troubled world.

Andrew Murrison Portrait Dr Murrison
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Those are interesting reflections. I suggest the hon. Gentleman has a word with the shadow Ministers on his Front Bench, particularly the shadow Chancellor who, to date, has failed to commit to the level of spending on the defence of this country to which the Government are completely committed.

--- Later in debate ---
Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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The whole House recognises the irony of an SNP Member talking about ships being delivered late. The whole House will want to welcome the extraordinary work done by those on HMS Prince of Wales who got the ship ready to leave not at 30 days’ readiness, which is what they were ranked for, but in eight days. I would have thought that congratulating the ship’s company would be the right thing to do.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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Does the Secretary of State remember that the British Army used to be the biggest trainer of young men and women in the country and that we produced so many skilled people? When can he take us back to those balmy days?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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Since 2014, we have been training 60,000 Ukrainian troops, proving that we know how to get troops trained. We still train extraordinary numbers. I think I am right that, on all forms of training more broadly, we are breaking some of those records. We will ensure that we have armed forces that are fit for the 21st century.

Oral Answers to Questions

Barry Sheerman Excerpts
Monday 11th September 2023

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Andrew Murrison Portrait Dr Murrison
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What can I say? I certainly congratulate Bill on completing the Great North Run at such an extraordinary age. I admire him hugely, and I congratulate him.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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The previous Secretary of State promised that he would come to David Brown Santasalo in Huddersfield to see the wonderful work that the company does producing the defence equipment that we need. Will one of the team be able to fulfil that promise?

Defence Command Paper Refresh

Barry Sheerman Excerpts
Tuesday 18th July 2023

(9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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There is certainly an odd thing that I observe in the Department: I cannot understand why the procurement speed and delivery in our Kindred, our operation to gift and support Ukraine, cannot be normal for us. I see our procurement in parallel. Some of that is about assurances. If we are going to fly drones over people in this country, we require much higher levels of assurances; the Civil Aviation Authority and so on absolutely require that. When you are in war, some of those levels can drop. Some of it is simply about that, but in other areas it is one lesson we are looking at through Defence Equipment and Support to understand how we can bring that into our main procurement and delivery.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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The Secretary of State knows that I am not a defence expert, although I have a great interest in it. I was born in the same week as the worst bombing of London, which took place not far from here, close to the day on which this place was bombed, and my father served in the last war. I have watched the Secretary of State over the years he has been in this House and I have a lot of regard for him. We have become quite good friends, which we are still allowed to be across parties in this House. He is not perfect. I have been a consistent critic of our going below 100,000 men in our Army—I have a long track record on that—but he is a better Secretary of State for Defence than many I have seen on those Benches. Does he realise that we are not daft on this issue? How could a Prime Minister and a Government allow a man of his stature as Defence Secretary to go at the critical time, when there is a war in Europe? All hell is breaking out on our planet and we lose a good Defence Secretary. What has happened with the Prime Minister and the little clique around him?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind comments. I have always liked both sparring and discussing defence with him. Importantly, many of us across the House understand that defence is a core function of a Government. It is not a discretionary spend stuck on the end; it is ultimately the core responsibility of a Government. I know that come the next election the battleground between these two Front-Bench teams will probably not see defence in it. We all know that. Many of us around this House who have campaigned for more defence will know that the election will come down to schools, hospitals, transport and everything else. The casualty of that is often defence, and we stop making the case to our citizens and our constituents as to why it is important. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who always reminds people on this side of the House and, certainly under the previous leadership, in his party of the importance of defence.

I have a fantastic team and there are plenty of amazing civil servants, military leaders and everyone else who will do just fine without me in this job. I believe it was President Lincoln who said, “The cemetery is full of indispensable men.”

Oral Answers to Questions

Barry Sheerman Excerpts
Monday 13th March 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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In the UK, we have thousands of British armed forces, joined by Canadians, Norwegians, Dutch, Swedish, Lithuanians, Australians and New Zealanders—endless numbers of people—helping the Ukrainians with that training. We ensure that not only do they train there, but when they go to somewhere such as Germany they get combined arms training. It is important that training accompanies equipment and, where we have had feedback, we have corrected the training as well.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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Madam Deputy Speaker, I have really missed you. Can I ask the Secretary of State what he makes of what President Xi has been saying over the past few days? I urge him today not to do what people are rumouring that he might do—that, given the present situation, he might be thinking about resigning. Will he stay with us, but fight for more money for our armed forces?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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As a Tory, you think about resigning most of the time—over the years. I am interested in trying to deliver for the men and women of our armed forces. I went into politics because the men and women of the armed forces needed and deserved better, and I am determined to try to stick that through. But I am also worried about the direction of threat for this country and for the world: not only what we have seen in China, as I think has been quoted—equipping for war, as they announced last week—but we have seen 83.4% enriched uranium being discovered, as the International Energy Agency has published in its report. That is weeks away from 90%, weapons-grade, should that be a decision. I have seen a growing problem with Russia and its violent extremism spreading across Africa. The threat is going up across the world, and we are more anxious and more unstable. I think that means long-term investment from whoever the Governments are over the next 10 to 15 years.

Oral Answers to Questions

Barry Sheerman Excerpts
Monday 30th January 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Andrew Murrison Portrait Dr Murrison
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend and predecessor. I see no evidence that people are being misdiagnosed or mismanaged. This is, of course, a matter for healthcare professionals and consultant psychiatrists in particular, and I cannot really interfere with their diagnoses, but I have noted my hon. Friend’s concerns, and I will certainly look into the issue.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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Does the Secretary of State agree that what we have learnt from Ukraine is that the future of good defence will lie in having the latest technology and innovation? Are there any new schemes we could have that would increase investment in that new technology, especially involving partnerships with other countries across NATO?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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I am delighted that we share the European headquarters of the defence innovation accelerator for the north Atlantic, or DIANA—a unit within NATO—with Estonia. I felt that it was important to partner with a small, innovative country to ensure that we get the very best between us. Our research and development budget is £6.6 billion, and we are one of the leaders in Government in investing it. However, the real lesson—this has always been a problem—is that it is important not only to invest in the inventions, but to pull that into what is actually required. That is traditionally where defence has fallen down, but I am determined to fix it, which means focusing R&D where we know there is a need in our armed services.

Ukraine Update

Barry Sheerman Excerpts
Thursday 26th January 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk
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My hon. Friend paints a powerful tribute and I am happy to echo it. The people of North Norfolk have stepped up admirably, not only in providing generators, but in opening their hearts and their homes to people fleeing Ukraine, so I absolutely pay tribute to them. It is worth remembering that this country has provided not just generators, but ambulances and Sea King search and rescue helicopters in addition to medicines and so on.

There is one matter that I am happy to correct, by the way: I said £600 million for additional ammunition, but I think it is £560 million. In so far as that is material, I am happy to make that clear.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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Does the Minister agree that, if anyone wants to understand President Putin better, they should do what I have done and watch the brilliant new documentary by Norma Percy, “Putin, Russia and the West”, which will be broadcast again on Monday on the BBC? It is very revealing about what we face. Does he also agree with me and other Back Benchers who have said that, while it is crucial that we send more tanks, and I applaud that—the gearboxes for the Challengers are all made at David Brown Santasalo in Huddersfield, and much else, too, so that is all good news—this is also about morale? The civilians across Ukraine need blankets, heat and food. Can we make sure across Departments that the folks at home, who support their troops and their President, are getting that kind of help with keeping warm this winter and feeding themselves and their children?

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks and pay tribute to his constituents, who have been providing gearboxes for the Challenger 2 tanks. He is absolutely right to say that the support is not just military. Indeed, more than £1 billion of humanitarian support has been provided by the British Government, and there are those from North Norfolk and elsewhere who have been doing a huge amount besides—blankets are important, food is important, generators are important. I am proud that this country has provided tens of thousands of sets of winter clothing for Ukrainian troops. That means that General Winter—as some have referred to winter and the impact that it can have on conflicts in that part of the world—should be on the side of the Ukrainians.

Royal Navy: Conduct towards Women

Barry Sheerman Excerpts
Monday 31st October 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Andrew Murrison Portrait Dr Murrison
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hesitate ever so slightly because I have been professionally involved in this area. A set of rules that take my name apply; they govern how servicemen and women who leave the armed forces for medical reasons are managed in civilian life, and help them to transition. The great majority of veterans transition to civilian life very well. The hon. Lady will be aware of that. In fact, there is good evidence to suggest that they do better than the civilian cohort. However, it is important that we continue to support their mental health. Over the past five years, matters have improved dramatically, not least as regards career transition and veterans’ ability to continue to access support through the services.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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I was angry over the weekend, not just because of this dreadful case of sexual harassment and bullying in the Navy, and not just because I have three daughters and five grand-daughters, and another due on Thursday, but because it is the inalienable right of women to be free from this sort of treatment, yet everywhere I have worked, it is still there—in the manufacturing sector; in the universities, where I spent 13 years; here in the House; and in Whitehall. This behaviour is still everywhere, and we have to do something about it fast.

Andrew Murrison Portrait Dr Murrison
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I agree with the hon. Gentleman; there is no question about that. I speak specifically about defence, of course, but what he says goes for society more generally, too.

Ukraine Update

Barry Sheerman Excerpts
Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 6 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.