73 John Spellar debates involving the Ministry of Defence

Oral Answers to Questions

John Spellar Excerpts
Monday 25th March 2024

(3 weeks, 4 days ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

That will go soon, but not yet. Colleagues on both sides of the House will note that whenever I have been invited to respond to such a question, like all good Defence Ministers, I have never missed the opportunity to say yes, but the reality is that our armed forces remain fit. Yes, it is the job of this House and particularly my hon. Friend’s Committee to scrutinise our readiness, as the Committee has done—and I commend the report to colleagues who have not already read it—but reinvestment is needed to sustain our armed forces at warfighting level. That is no scandal; that is the consequence of a peace dividend that rightly allowed successive Governments to disinvest in the resilience that kept our cold war force credible. However, as the Secretary of State so rightly said in his speech the other week, we are now in a “pre-war era”, so it is the responsibility of this Government and those who follow to reinvest in the necessary warfighting capability.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The Minister rightly points to the ability to sustain fighting. He knows that an exercise conducted with the Americans showed that the British Army would run out of munitions within 10 days. Battles in Ukraine showed very early on that this would be an artillery war. Why—I have asked this question of several Ministers, so I hope that he has the answer—did it take from March or April 2022 to July 2023 to place the orders for new munitions? We cannot afford this sort of delay in the Ministry of Defence.

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The contract has now been placed, and it increases our supply of .155s significantly. I take issue with the point that the right hon. Gentleman makes: I am not aware of the exercise he referred to, but in exercises that I have seen, in which the UK has operated alongside the US, again and again the American senior commanders have held the UK force elements in the highest regard.

Armed Forces Readiness and Defence Equipment

John Spellar Excerpts
Thursday 21st March 2024

(4 weeks, 1 day ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The debate encompasses a wide range of issues. My colleague on the Defence Committee, the right hon. Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois), outlined some of them. I will focus on one aspect: industrial capacity, by which I mean not only the big, well-known manufacturing plants, or the well-known prime companies that we often rightly hear from in the national media, but their extended supply chains and material suppliers, and equally their often under-remarked-on workforce—not just the engineers and craftsmen but the crucial production workers, who are vital for ramping up production and our ability to surge in a crisis. We have experienced difficulties with that in response to the war in Ukraine.

Many in that supply chain also sell to the civilian market, including the public sector. Many of the specialist engineering companies in the midlands supply Formula 1, civil aviation and premium vehicles, as well as defence. They need orders from defence and from public sector bodies to maintain their workload and employment, and to train the workforce of the future. That is why—this will be a theme throughout my contribution—a whole-of-Government approach is necessary. Underlying that is the question of whether we are in a new environment or just an oscillation. Basically, is there a war going on? The people of Ukraine certainly know that. The Baltic nations, Poland, Finland and Sweden know that. It does not mean that war is inevitable, but it certainly means that it is now possible, and failure to respond will actually make it more likely.

One has to question whether the commentariat and the British establishment understand that. The Government need to make clear their view on the state of international relations. Do they regard the invasion of Ukraine by Russia as an interlude—a very bloody one—after which the situation will return to something approximating normal, albeit not the status quo ante, or has there in fact been a tectonic shift, and are we at best back in the cold war, although with a hot war going on in Ukraine and the danger of extension elsewhere along the new iron curtain that is descending over Europe? That is clearly understood not just by the politicians and the defence establishment, but by the publics in Sweden and Finland, with a dramatic shift in opinion, after centuries of neutrality, and their historic decision to join NATO and become very active participants.

Even so, across NATO, there is not that sense of urgency, or a clear realisation of the crisis. Only this week, the boss of the Scandinavian ammunition company Nammo was in the press pointing out that societies were still in peacetime mode. He gave the example of its factory in Norway, which needs additional electricity supply capacity in order to expand. A new site for TikTok has been created nearby, but the factory cannot get enough electricity. He rightly pointed out that the defence of western Europe is slightly more important than cat videos on TikTok. He contrasted that with the Defence Production Act in the United States, which was the Truman-era response to the Korean war, based on the Franklin D. Roosevelt War Powers Act. It gives extensive powers to the US Government, and they are using them. That is why they are responding to the weaknesses in procurement and ramping up production capacity, including through several Government-owned and Government-constructed, company-operated plants. Will the Minister indicate whether our Government are looking at that as a possible mechanism?

Do the Government recognise the fragility of the supply situation? Recent crises such as covid, and the situation in the Red sea and Ukraine, have already shown how vulnerable our supply chains are, and many firms and customers are finding that the so-called cheapest option can end up being very expensive. To be fair, that applies not just to the United Kingdom; all around the world, companies are finding that extended supply lines and single points of failure at home or abroad can have very damaging consequences. The discussion has shifted, and now there is much talk about reshoring, near-shoring and friend-shoring. I am not sure how much of that has penetrated the calcified mindset of our Treasury and the senior civil service, but I hope that the Minister will be able to shed some light on that.

This is not a Eurocentric issue; we must also be aware of the increasing tension in the Gulf, particularly arising from the destabilising impact of Iran and its proxies across the middle east and north Africa, as well as the increasingly aggressive attitude of China, which is why deepening relations through AUKUS and with Japan is so necessary and welcome. I hope that the Minister can report on the success this week at the AUKMIN—Australia-UK ministerial consultations—and AUKUS conferences taking place in Australia. We fully understand why the Secretary of State is there today, rather than responding to this debate.

We have to be clear that these problems did not come out of a clear blue sky. They were shown to us some years ago. The right hon. Member for Rayleigh and Wickford identified the evidence that we had from an American general. When the Americans conducted an exercise with the British Army about an outbreak of conflict in Europe, we basically ran out of munitions in about 10 days, but nothing was done about it. Even once the conflict started in Ukraine in February 2022, and it soon became clear that artillery would play a major role in it, the Ministry of Defence did not place an order for new shells until July 2023. The Minister cannot complain that I have not given him notice of this issue; I have raised it several times in previous debates, and have never had a satisfactory answer about that delay. We cannot afford that degree of indecision going forward. It is not as though we have not had shell crises before; we had one in 1915, which brought down the Government. I am afraid that there does not seem to be much collective institutional memory in the civil service today.

Mark Francois Portrait Mr Francois
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are giving £2.5 billion in the next financial year to Ukraine, and it is money well spent, but we cannot spend the same pound twice, so does the right hon. Gentleman agree that if we rightly give that money to Ukraine, we cannot then spend it on Army salaries, British shells or submarine maintenance? In other words, it is for the Ukrainians; it is not part of the UK defence budget, is it?

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

Well, it is unfortunately scored as being in the UK defence budget, and in the claim that we are keeping up defence expenditure; that masks an actual cut in British domestic defence spending. It is absolutely right that we supply the Ukrainians—I think we should be supplying more—as they are on the frontline and are carrying the fight. We—not just us, but the rest of Europe, the United States and the free world—should be backing them up with matériel. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that trying to slip that into the defence budget, rather than it being part of our national commitment, is the wrong way of handling it.

Even with new production, I am still not clear—perhaps the Minister will clarify this—on what is happening with the increasing capacity for propellants and explosives. Across the western world, very few points—just two or three factories—are capable of making them, and they are stretched to capacity. I understand that difficulty, but I want to know what is being done to create new capacity. I know that the United States is doing it, but what are we doing here and in Europe? In that context, I commend the article from Iain Martin in The Daily Telegraph, in which he says that, whatever our differences with other European countries over the EU and Brexit, we should certainly be working much more closely on maintaining and creating new defence capacity—not just military but industrial as well.

Although I accept that the Government and this House must take the lead, others must follow. If we are, as I have been arguing, in a new defence environment, the City of London and the finance houses must accept their responsibilities. They must make it clear that not only is investment in defence a good investment as it leads part of British manufacturing, but it is their patriotic duty and part of the defence of the free world. However, getting that message across and changing the mindset needs a whole-of-Government approach, not just the involvement of the Ministry of Defence and those of us in the House who are interested in the subject.

As I said to union representatives in the evidence session, the unions have tens of thousands of members in the defence and aerospace sector. They should not stand idly by while mobs try to shut down their workplaces. Only this week, we had demonstrations outside GE Aerospace in Cheltenham, which was, for over a century, the Smiths factory. There have also been protests outside the Leonardo site in Edinburgh, which I presume is the old Ferranti site. I hope that unions are backing not just their members’ employment but the national interest, and will look at whether any funding is going to bodies that are organising to shut those places.

I fully acknowledge the issues facing our uniformed forces, as well as their expertise and commitment. I am pleased that others will highlight their contribution. I regret that the Government have taken their commitment for granted. In any conflict, supply and resupply are crucial. Conflicts are won not just on the battlefield, but—sometimes even more so—in our factories and those of our allies. That is why we need a rethink, a reset and a recovery of lost ground. Will the Government take up that challenge?

--- Later in debate ---
Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As Chancellor of the Exchequer, he cut defence expenditure, so there are parallels there, but not the ones that the right hon. Member for Rayleigh and Wickford is referring to.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

Another key feature of that era was the Treasury’s 10-year rule of basing defence expenditure on the assumption that there would not be a war in Europe within the next 10 years, which rather unravelled at the end of the 1930s.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It did. If we look back, the common theme —it is a matter of fact, whether people like it or not—is that we have defence cuts under Conservative Governments, and when Labour is in power we maintain or increase the defence budget.

--- Later in debate ---
John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

Laughable.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is laughable, as my right hon. Friend says. We need to make sure that we actually invest, because this is about skills and about ensuring that we have the workforce.

We have seen the effects when we just pull out of such work. We cannot look at our skills base as a tap, which we turn on when we want it and turn off again when we do not. We cannot do so, because we have seen the costs of that—for example, on the Astute programme. To be political, it was again the Conservative Government who stopped building submarines, so we had a gap in skills, and it has taken all the effort recently to rebuild that skills base and ensure we get it back. We must have such a skills base continually, and that has to be done by working with our European allies. Whether the zealots of Brexit and the anti-Europeans like it or not, if we are talking about things such as stockpiles, we do have to work with allies and make sure that we can deliver them through the supply chain we have.

UK Armed Forces

John Spellar Excerpts
Monday 11th March 2024

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

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
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I have said, we have just committed 40% of the land force personnel to the Steadfast Defender exercise. NATO is the key to the defence of this nation, and indeed the whole continent, in conventional terms. We should recognise the enormous contribution of our armed forces, and the fact that we have increased spending significantly. However, I hear what colleagues are saying, as does the Secretary of State. We have set out the case for 2.5%, but we want that 2.5% to be sustainable, so that the economy can afford it over the long term, and that will be possible through growth and sensible measures on fiscal policy.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The Minister conceded earlier that funding for Ukraine and the escalating nuclear cost were at the expense of restoring the viability of our frontline readiness, but deterrence is a lot cheaper than war. Surely our support for Ukraine and the deterrent should be a charge on the general fund, rather than further hollowing out our conventional armed forces.

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not believe I made that point about nuclear. The right hon. Gentleman has said that these factors are at the expense of the frontline, but nuclear is the frontline. We have had the continuous at-sea deterrent patrolling in defence of this country every year since 1969, as I recall. We have had it for a long time, and it is fundamental to our defence. The idea that that is not frontline spending is extraordinary.

Defence

John Spellar Excerpts
Monday 4th March 2024

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Ministerial Corrections
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

However, as this war drags into its third year, far from winning, Russia has been pushed back since those early days. Putin has achieved none of his strategic objectives, his invading force has suffered a staggering 356,000 casualties, and Ukraine has destroyed or damaged about 30% of the Russian Black sea fleet and retaken 50% of the territory that Russia stole from it.

[Official Report, 22 February 2024, Vol. 745, c. 886.]

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

The Defence Secretary was certainly in full Duracell bunny mode today, but it is clear that Britain and this Government have much to be proud of in our response to the Ukraine crisis. It was also clear, however, that right from the outset of the invasion it would be an industrial munitions war, harking back to the last century. While Russia has got itself on to a full war economy footing, our Government machine frankly seems to have failed to mobilise British industry in the same way. To highlight that, I will pose a simple question. Why did it take from February 2022 to July 2023 to place the vital order for additional, desperately needed artillery shells?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not entirely agree with the right hon. Member’s characterisation of the UK response in terms of deindustrialisation. I do agree that it is difficult overall to suddenly ramp up from whatever level we are producing at on a non-war footing, but it is heartening to know—I think this is right, but it is off the top of my head; I will correct the figures if I have got it wrong—that our munitions and missile production is now eight times the level it was before the war, so we have certainly stepped up.

[Official Report, 22 February 2024, Vol. 745, c. 893.]

Letter of correction from the Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps):

Errors have been identified in the statement I made on Ukraine and the response I gave to the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar).

The correct information should have been:

Ukraine: Military Equipment

John Spellar Excerpts
Tuesday 27th February 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

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
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to take my first contribution from my right hon. Friend in the Chamber since he became Chairman of the Select Committee. I look forward to further discussion with him later this afternoon on other matters before the Committee. He is right to stress the importance of that contract—155 mm shells are one of the fundamental munitions we need to see both replenished for the UK armed forces and, where possible, provided into Ukraine, along with other key artillery classes. I can confirm that we signed that contract with BAE last July and it should lead to an eightfold increase in 155 mm production, initially in the Washington plant, but thereafter in south Wales. I am keen to see that get going as soon as possible.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The MOD has clearly done a decent job of supporting Ukraine, but I still doubt that the Government as a whole are seized of the urgent critical nature of this crisis. I return to the question I asked the Secretary of State last week: why, when it was clear early in 2022 that this was going to be very much an artillery war dating back to the last century, did it take until mid-2023 to place the order for additional artillery shells? The Minister should have the answer by now.

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I refer to the previous answer I gave, where I was clear that we placed that order last July, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said; that is for our own armed forces and it is an eightfold increase. But we have provided 300,000 artillery shells into Ukraine. We have procured them, Sir. We have done that not just from this country; we have done it through rapid procurement, through Defence Equipment and Support. All I can say is that I pay tribute to that effort. We all know that we need to go further. The other point is that this is not just about what we have procured; this country has played a leading role in ensuring that other nations join us and provide more munitions. That is as much a key part of the role that we have played.

Ukraine

John Spellar Excerpts
Thursday 22nd February 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On his first point, my hon. Friend is right. It is a Thursday, and many Members will have returned to their constituencies, but the Russian viewership of the Chamber should not mistake the level of attendance with the level of interest. The reason that people have felt confident to return to their constituencies is that they know there is no dispute in this House, as we have heard from all sides, in our solid, iron resolve for Ukraine.

On the wider picture, Members will see the news. They understand that with Putin, he simply murders those who stand up to him. He will go to any lengths. He turns his entire economy on to a war footing, and he tries to work with others to further his means, whether that is Belarus at the beginning or more recently North Korea, Iran and other pariah states. I had better not go into the detailed intelligence on the Floor of the House, although I am sure more briefing can be announced. It simply adds to the overall need for us to stick together—not just in this House, but with the civilised countries of the world—and ensure that Putin understands that no matter how long he carries on, we will always be there to help defend Ukraine.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The Defence Secretary was certainly in full Duracell bunny mode today, but it is clear that Britain and this Government have much to be proud of in our response to the Ukraine crisis. It was also clear, however, that right from the outset of the invasion it would be an industrial munitions war, harking back to the last century. While Russia has got itself on to a full war economy footing, our Government machine frankly seems to have failed to mobilise British industry in the same way. To highlight that, I will pose a simple question. Why did it take from February 2022 to July 2023 to place the vital order for additional, desperately needed artillery shells?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not entirely agree with the right hon. Member’s characterisation of the UK response in terms of deindustrialisation. I do agree that it is difficult overall to suddenly ramp up from whatever level we are producing at on a non-war footing, but it is heartening to know—I think this is right, but it is off the top of my head; I will correct the figures if I have got it wrong—that our munitions and missile production is now eight times the level it was before the war, so we have certainly stepped up.

In addition, we are carrying out rounds of procurement through the international fund for Ukraine, which we established and which is still receiving new contributions. I am delighted that Australia has just donated $50 million to that fund. I think—again, this is off the top of my head—there have been 27 rounds of contract procurement so far. I am not familiar with the particular case that the right hon. Member cited, so I will write back to him on the detail, but it is encouraging that we have been able to set up a mechanism so that other countries that have not had our scale of ambition and footprint on Ukraine can put in their own money, so that we can buy in coalition on their behalf. We will continue to do that.

Oral Answers to Questions

John Spellar Excerpts
Monday 8th January 2024

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

AUKUS has strong support from across the House, but although the time scales seem very long, in reality there is growing concern in the defence community that they may already be slipping, often because of bureaucratic inertia. What is being done to keep this vital project on track? How often is the Minister meeting his officials to monitor and chase progress?

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am not aware of any slippage. We meet frequently and discuss this incredibly important matter. I am pleased to hear his confidence that AUKUS has cross-party support. It is generating huge numbers of jobs for the future: an additional 1,700 jobs will be created in Raynesway to build the reactors for the UK and Australia. It is an incredibly exciting project and we are 100% committed to it.

Ukraine

John Spellar Excerpts
Tuesday 19th December 2023

(4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

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
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to take a question from my right hon. Friend. He was an excellent Minister for Defence Procurement and an excellent Minister generally, and I always enjoyed the many Cobra meetings that were overseen by him, but he speaks with equal strength from the Back Benches, and his question is very important. When it comes to opportunities for future industrial production in Ukraine, I would like to see an opportunity for us to work together for our mutual benefit to create ordnance not just for Ukraine but for ourselves, because maximising that demand signal is the best way in which to secure the strongest possible military industrial base.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I readily acknowledge the support that we have given to Ukraine to try and ensure that Putin cannot win. That is an objective shared in all parts of the House, but the scale of the conflict requires more, especially in the form of artillery and munitions. Why did it take the Government more than a year to sign the contract for new capacity for shell production, not only for Ukraine but to restock our own supplies?

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Gentleman is entirely right, and he speaks with experience as a former Defence Minister, but we have signed the contract on the 155 shell, as the Prime Minister announced last July. That contract sits alongside many others, including the lightweight multi-role missile and STARStreak contracts. This is, of course, for our own defence, but, as I have said, we recently delivered the 300,000th artillery shell to Ukraine, and we should be proud of that effort.

Oral Answers to Questions

John Spellar Excerpts
Monday 20th November 2023

(5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Andrew Murrison Portrait The Minister for Defence People, Veterans and Service Families (Dr Andrew Murrison)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for her question, and I reiterate once again my thanks for all the hard work she has done on behalf of women in defence. She is quite right: it is unacceptable. Today, the permanent secretary has written to the Department with an action plan on how to deal with the specific issue my hon. Friend has raised, in particular asking our non-executive directors to conduct a review, so that we can ensure that what we are doing stands up to muster against the norms in other large organisations.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

T7. The Ukraine conflict has reinforced the need for a thriving defence industry to underpin our security. Will the Secretary of State now take the opportunity to revisit his predecessor’s policy of placing so many orders abroad, rather than in British industry with British workers, and in particular, the building of the fleet solid support ships in foreign yards?

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Gentleman talks about the fleet solid support ships being built in foreign yards. I can assure him that recently, I had the great pleasure of visiting Harland & Wolff at its Appledore yard in north Devon. That is in the UK, and it is where a significant part of the FSS contract will be made.

Defence Command Paper Refresh

John Spellar Excerpts
Tuesday 18th July 2023

(9 months ago)

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

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend. Long before I was doing this job, he was campaigning for defence to be properly apportioned the funding it deserved to keep this country safe, and I pay tribute to him for that. He has fought for that for many years.

Should there be an increase in funding for defence—and I seriously hope that there will be, based on our Prime Minister’s 2.5% pledge—and if we invest in our specialties and our skills, we can expand our armed forces when the threat increases. Finding a way to hold those skills on the books even if they are rarely used, is why it is important to develop a single armed forces Act. Currently we have legislation that says that if you want to join the reserves from the regulars, you have to leave the regulars and join a separate legal entity—the reserves. That prevents soldiers from going backwards and forwards and people from being mobilised in the way we want. We want to introduce a single armed forces Act. We think this will help us do that. Skills are at the core.

The second thing is the investment in rapid procurement—the ability to keep headroom in the budget to respond to the latest threat as the adversary changes. The third is making sure that we invest in sustainability and enablers, because there is no point in having all the frontline vehicles if you cannot get anywhere.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I know it is considered bad form to speak ill of the dead, even the politically dead, but frankly the Secretary of State’s contribution was pretty thin and full of clichés, and fundamentally an admission of failure—of 13 years of continual cuts by this Government.

Let me take just one example, which is touched on in the report. It was clear from allied exercises that in any major conflict we would run out of artillery munitions within a week, and the Ukraine invasion reinforced that. So why has it taken until this month for the Secretary of State to sign the contract to replace those artillery shells?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is very clear. First, the right hon. Gentleman might actually understand that sometimes the supply chain has to be reinvigorated. When we placed an order for the NLAW—the next generation light anti-tank weapon—it turned out that the optics had stopped being made 10 years before. You can ring up all you like and try to place an order the next day, but until the manufacturers source the supply chain, it is not going to happen. But what I did was ensure that I placed the order in the United Kingdom—in the north of England and in Wales. That factory will start producing 155 mm shells. I have given it a long-term contract of half a billion pounds to start supplying our forces. By the way, the stockpiles of our ammunition started depleting around about 1997.