Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

One of the allies with which I discussed this incident was Turkey, at the time when it happened. I have a good and close relationship with the Turkish Government, and I will be visiting Turkey next week. The Turkish Government are aware of the position, and, as ever, offered as much assistance with this process as we wished.

We do not consider this incident to constitute a deliberate escalation on the part of the Russians, and our analysis concurs that it was due to a malfunction, but it is nevertheless a reminder of quite how dangerous things can be when you choose to use your fighters in the manner in which the Russians have used them. While this obviously involved the release of a weapon, we have seen very close flying next to United States, United Kingdom and NATO assets over the last few years. In one case, a Russian fighter went within 15 feet of a NATO aircraft. Such action is reckless and unnecessary, and puts many people’s lives at risk.

I am not naive. We are incredibly lucky that what we saw over the Black sea did not become worse. I am not trying to trivialise it, but we do not consider it to have been a deliberate escalation on the part of the Russian state.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
- Hansard - -

I, too, thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) appreciates the collegiate way in which both he and his staff have acted throughout this crisis.

Understandably, much of the attention arising from the statement will be focused on the incident involving the RAF surveillance aircraft and the Russian Su-27 fighter which took place in international airspace during a pre-notified flight over the Black sea last week. I commend the Secretary of State and the Ministry of Defence for their calm and measured response to a situation that could easily and very quickly have escalated into something far more serious.

Of course, the situation in Ukraine is serious enough, with Putin having now declared martial law in the four newly annexed territories. That gives him a level of control over industries that could possibly be repurposed to support his illegal war effort. As the Secretary of State said, in recent days we have seen more Russian war crimes. Ukrainian civilians and civilian infrastructure have been targeted with missiles, rockets and Iranian-made drones—which, I believe, makes Iran directly complicit in these war crimes. When will the Government follow the example of our US allies and EU partners in actively pursuing and sanctioning Iranian companies which have been involved in making those drones, as well as the individuals behind the companies? What, if anything, is being done to try to cut off the international supply of components to Iran?

Let me end by echoing what was said by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard). As winter approaches and we continue to provide military support, what thought has been given to protecting the civilian population? Is there scope for us to send more generators and specialist electricity equipment to help Ukraine to keep the lights and the heating on this winter?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That last point is extremely important. The Department of Health and Social Care has already done significant work in securing medical supplies during the conflict, but the hon. Gentleman prompts me to see what we can do in a more international, co-ordinated manner. I will, perhaps, write to him giving the details of that. He is right to say that this is going to be a tough winter, and we need to make sure that the Ukrainians can cope.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the calmness of the RAF. Incredibly professional men and women are doing an incredible job, and not only here. Some of those same aircraft, and the P-8s from Lossiemouth, go out to protect us in the very high north from aggression and Russian activity. It is often in Scotland that Russia enters our airspace with its long-range bombers and the patrols that it did not give up after the cold war. The difference that should be noted is that we were in international airspace. However, we try to retain a professional manner with Russia. It is important that we maintain that professional link with the Russian Ministry of Defence, and recognise that we can still have those important engagements at times like this.