43 Richard Foord debates involving the Ministry of Defence

Oral Answers to Questions

Richard Foord 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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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.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
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I would like to build on the incisive question asked by the right hon. Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois). More than 125,000 applicants to the British Army were rejected in the past five years. It has emerged that 70% of applicants were dropped or withdrew at the paperwork stage. More than 8,000 withdrew their applications, having waited for at least six months. What consequences will Capita face for this record, and when might the Army bring soldier and officer recruitment back in house?

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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I encourage the hon. Gentleman to direct questions about recruitment to the Minister for Defence People and Families. As to the company the hon. Gentleman talks about, my focus is on industry and supporting jobs, which the original question was about. I think we have a fantastic record, boosted by not only the exports I referred to earlier, but the ones that my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey) was talking about.

Armed Forces Readiness and Defence Equipment

Richard Foord Excerpts
Thursday 21st March 2024

(4 weeks, 1 day ago)

Commons Chamber
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Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
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I echo the positive words that have been spoken already this afternoon about the reports from the Public Accounts and Defence Committees, and it is timely that we get all this out into the open. In the Budget earlier this month, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that defence spending “will rise to 2.5% as soon as economic conditions allow.”—[Official Report, 6 March 2024; Vol. 746, c. 846.]

What indications has the Minister had from the Prime Minister and Chancellor about when economic conditions might allow? What are the conditions that might allow, and when might they be met?

This week the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Dame Meg Hillier), gave an interview to the i newspaper, in which she described “big nasties” facing public spending. She talked about “slow politics”, where decisions are made with a long-term strategic perspective at the forefront. That is especially pertinent when it comes to defence capabilities. As we are entering a period of global uncertainty, it is concerning to read in the PAC report that there are glaring discrepancies around how spending is identified for single services. For example, the report highlights the way that planned spending is reported. Whereas the Royal Navy includes all costs in its plans, creating an on-paper deficit of more than £15 billion, the Army includes only what estimates it can afford, resulting in a running deficit of about £1.2 billion. Had the Army followed the same procedures as the Royal Navy, its deficit would soar to over £13 billion. Such inconsistency in budget reporting is, I am sure, not a deliberate lack of transparency, but it can bring about distrust when it comes to planned defence spending.

The Defence Committee’s “Ready for War?” report stresses the need to replenish our much depleted munitions stockpiles. It highlights that there has been a “hollowing out” over the past 14 years—we have heard that talked about, including from the Dispatch Boxes—but that has been brought into sharp relief by an emboldened, aggressive, nationalist Russian state. If we cannot co-ordinate defence spending in a clear manner, we risk weakening the perception of our defence capabilities. The issue of the budget deficit goes further, with the Committee highlighting a £16.9 billion deficit over 10 years, due in part to rising inflation. We know that defence inflation is greater than other measures of inflation, partly because a lot of our defence equipment is imported from overseas, particularly the United States.

There is a 62% increase in spending on the Defence Nuclear Organisation, and the report states that defence spending would need to increase to around 2.5% of GDP to plug that gap. Ministers are entrenching the uncertainty around budget planning, meaning that important projects risk being deprioritised. At present, the defence budget is thought to be about 2.1%, and some measures try to include our defence commitment to Ukraine, so that it might rise to 2.25%. The MOD said that the difference between 2.25% and 2.5% of GDP is about £6 billion or £7 billion. There are important reasons why that increase might be necessary. Although we spend 2.1% on defence as a whole, around 6% of that goes to fund our nuclear capabilities. Prior to 2010, the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent was kept out of Ministry of Defence spending measures and held centrally, whereas now it is all included in the defence budget, meaning that our conventional spending has seen a great deal of squeeze over the last decade-plus.

By failing to invest in our armed forces over a sustained period, we have heard cries of operational readiness being affected, and people crying about overstretch. I recall that word from my own service about 20 years ago, when people were declaring that the armed forces were running hot and that they were overstretched. That is why it is essential for Governments to know how much they can commit their armed forces. That comes back to what we used to call the defence planning assumptions about how many operational overseas deployments might take place simultaneously. Up until 2015, those defence planning assumptions were published, but since 2015 they have not been published and have been very much held behind a cloak. I see no real reason from a security perspective or from the point of view of what our adversaries might think, for keeping those withheld. As was pointed out to the Defence Committee, our adversaries probably know our capabilities well, and they will be analysing our intentions. It is arguably better to be transparent about those defence planning assumptions if that means a reduction in the call on the armed forces by other Departments of Government.

In recent years, we have seen that a lot, with Departments having sought to use the armed forces for military aid to the civil authorities, whether for ambulance strikes or to cover for the fire service. The armed forces have been pulled in for those roles and taken away from training, which is essential to their mission. Transparency is very much required.

When that is combined with the persistent issues of repeated cuts and reductions in personnel, our armed forces could be in an even more challenging place than is currently suggested. We really need to sort this out. The right hon. Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) referred to the recent speech by the Secretary of State for Defence about moving from a post-war period to a pre-war era. I was alarmed to hear that speech. I am an advocate for the Roosevelt phrase,

“speak softly and carry a big stick”.

In talking about moving from post-war to pre-war, I felt that he was doing quite the reverse: investing no new money in defence while speaking with a rather loud mouth.

It strikes me that the Defence Secretary is not doing enough to advocate for spending in private, because he is doing it in public through leaked letters to the Chancellor, as reported in The Daily Telegraph. His predecessor, the right hon. Member for Wyre and Preston North (Mr Wallace), did the honourable and decent thing by stepping away from his Cabinet role when he could no longer tolerate Cabinet collective responsibility in relation to defence spending.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones
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Does the hon. Member agree that the strategy the Defence Secretary is employing has nothing to do with defence but is possibly to do with a future bid to become leader of the Conservative party?

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord
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I grateful to the right hon. Member. While I will not speculate on the Defence Secretary’s intentions, I certainly think that has had the effect of putting him out of step with the Chancellor and the Prime Minister such that he is no longer engaged in collective responsibility.

It seems to me that by talking up increases in the defence budget in cash terms rather than real terms, the Government are hiding behind recent high inflation. I will give the House a specific example. Following the publication of the PAC report on 8 March, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson, who was asked to respond to that report, replied:

“We are ensuring that we have the largest defence budget in history”.

That is so much spin as to be like a vortex—it is way off to suggest that. As we heard from the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Sir Julian Lewis), during the cold war, defence spending was north of 6% of GDP. I am not advocating for defence spending to return to anything like those levels, because I recognise that we were dealing then with an eastern Europe in the grips of Russia and very much surrounded by and part of the Warsaw pact, with all its contributions assisting the Warsaw pact inventory, whereas now our spending is very much contributing to NATO’s defence of Europe and the deterrence of Moscow. I would understand the phrase “as soon as economic conditions allow” if we were talking about an absolute cost—for example, the cost of a frigate or a platform, with a price tag—but we are not; we are talking about a relative cost. The Government need to set out what those economic conditions are.

Finally, I turn to land. As we have heard rehearsed in the House many times, the Army is being reduced from 82,500 to 73,000 soldiers. Earlier, Mr Deputy Speaker talked about the considerable expertise in this place, but the greatest defence experience is probably in the other place. Those who rose to the top of their professions in the armed forces now speak with the greatest wisdom on defence. I would therefore like to quote from some of them, starting with three former Chiefs of the General Staff.

In January, Lord Richard Dannatt said:

“The bottom line is numbers do matter… It is a fact that at 73,000 the British Army has never been smaller”.

In March 2021, Lord David Richards said that “mass still matters”. In May 2022, General Sir Nick Carter said that

“in the order of 80,000”

soldiers are required to ensure that the UK could field a full division as part of a combined NATO force.

Although the current Chief of the General Staff is somewhat restricted in what he can say while in post, in June 2022 he said that the UK was facing a “1937 moment”, and that

“it would be perverse if the CGS was advocating reducing the size of the Army as a land war rages in Europe”.

I firmly advocate for the Army to be restored to that 83,000 figure. When will those economic conditions be met so that we might see 2.5% spent on defence?

Defence Acquisition Reform

Richard Foord Excerpts
Wednesday 28th February 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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I am honoured by my right hon. Friend. We enjoy our robust exchanges, but that was an example that I shall particularly remember.

The phrase “a sense of urgency” is, I think, what the public want to hear. Important as today’s exchanges are, this is really serious; it is above politics. This is about the fact that our adversaries are ramping up their procurement and their technology—frankly, in some instances, at a frightening pace. That is why embracing the deep relationship with industry, the constant feedback loop on data from the frontline and from war gaming, is so crucial. I think the Committee has an important role in this regard. I set out our intention in my statement, but for it to be embedded we will have a key set of milestones that will enable us, if we work together, to show that it is being implemented; if we can do that together, we can put the pressure on to ensure that it becomes manifest.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
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I would like to pick up on the point about urgency. We have seen what the UK is capable of in defence acquisition from urgent capability requirements or, previously, urgent operational requirements. These harness the ingenuity of British industry and combine it with the professionalism of the British armed forces personnel. They remove bureaucracy, focus on the capability rather than detailed specifications, and deliver amazing equipment in very short timescales. A great example is the Jackal, the all-terrain mobility platform that was developed at Dunkeswell in my Honiton constituency. How much is the new integrated procurement model informed by the UCR process?

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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On matters of defence procurement, it always strikes me how many former service personnel will raise the issue of urgent operational requirements or whatever else we call them, whatever variation of the acronym. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to stress their importance. They are not something that can be used at scale for the whole procurement system, but in specific, urgent areas they are critical, and we will continue to use them. I am considering them in a couple of sensitive areas, which obviously I cannot talk about further, but he makes an excellent point. By the way, the Jackal is an excellent platform. My first trade mission on exports was to the Czech Republic, and the Jackal was there. I was proud to receive glowing reviews about it from the defence select committee there.

Ukraine: Military Equipment

Richard Foord Excerpts
Tuesday 27th February 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks 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.

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James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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My right hon. Friend asks about an excellent point. Both the Secretary of State and I have commented on that. I have held meetings at the Treasury and with defence companies about the ESG—environmental, social and governance—issue, as well as with financial institutions, at Rothschild in the City, because it is extraordinary that anyone should think we should not invest in core munitions when we see now that the cause they support is peace, freedom and democracy. If we do not fund our defence sector, we simply will not be able to defend those fine principles.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
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President Zelensky said yesterday that without new military aid from the United States, Ukraine would be unable to defend the Black sea shipping corridor, which has enabled the export of 33 million metric tonnes of Ukrainian grain. That has been enabled in part by the supply by the UK of the Storm Shadow missile and by France’s supply of the SCALP missile. What are the Government discussing with German counterparts about their potential to supply their equivalent, the Taurus missile system?

Ukraine

Richard Foord Excerpts
Thursday 22nd February 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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I am delighted that my hon. Friend was in Poland yesterday. The Poles have been right on the frontline next to Ukraine on this. They have been tremendous in their support for Ukraine and in investing in their own defence sector. He is right to highlight British military assistance, which comes in many different forms, much of which we cannot discuss, but it has certainly assisted in Poland and elsewhere in the region. He will be pleased to hear that we also contributed to Poland’s own defence: before its election, we provided two Typhoons to prevent escalation and exacerbation by Putin. We also provide other air defence mechanisms to Poland. I would be happy to provide him with a further briefing.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
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On behalf of the Liberal Democrats, I very much thank the Government for the statement and offer our wholehearted support for it. This week, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev asked the rhetorical question, “Where to stop?” Medvedev, who is now deputy head of Russia’s security council, answered, “I don’t know.” He continued:

“Will it be Kiev? Yes, probably it should be Kiev.”

He went on to make an outlandish claim that there is a threat to the Russian Federation from Kyiv, and he made outrageous threats, including to the UK. Will the Defence Secretary first condemn the ambiguity of Medvedev’s rhetoric on Russia’s ambitions? Secondly, will he rebut the wild claim that the Russian Federation is somehow threatened? Thirdly, will he ask his counterparts in Delhi and Beijing to urge Medvedev to halt his nuclear sabre rattling?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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The hon. Member is absolutely right to point out those irresponsible comments, which very much follow in the footsteps of what Putin goes around saying. It is completely irresponsible in the modern era to have world leaders going about threatening others. There is absolutely no justification whatsoever for an autocratic state or any state walking into a demographic neighbour and claiming it as its own. To go further than that and to start threatening other states on a trumped-up charge that NATO somehow wishes to do the same in reverse is, as the whole House will know, complete fiction. NATO has no desire to do anything but defend the existing borders. That is why NATO is no threat whatsoever to Moscow.

Oral Answers to Questions

Richard Foord Excerpts
Monday 19th February 2024

(2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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My hon. Friend asks an excellent question. It helps that we have lots of school groups and young people in the Gallery today, it being half term. I can confirm that last year’s defence Command Paper identified skills as a priority, including the shortage of engineering, digital, cyber, STEM, nuclear, and space-based skills. The defence head of profession for engineering, who also supports the Government science and engineering head of profession, has a defence youth engagement strategy that drives STEM outreach activities and the encouragement of engineering uptake in individuals aged four to 14.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
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13. What recent discussions he has had with international partners on future military support for Ukraine.

James Heappey Portrait The Minister for Armed Forces (James Heappey)
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Everything that I had intended to say in response to the hon. Gentleman was covered in response to the supplementaries to Question 2.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord
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Lord Ismay said of NATO that it existed, among other things,

“to keep the Soviet Union out”

and “the Americans in”. The Foreign Secretary was misunderstood on a recent visit to the United States when he proposed that Congress should pass a new military aid package for Ukraine, and he was rebuffed by some Republicans in the House of Representatives. What can the Defence Secretary do to encourage the US to maintain its commitment to Ukraine and to NATO?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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Again, we covered this earlier, but it is an important issue. The Secretary of State and I, and other Ministers from the MOD and across Government, put our shoulder to the wheel whenever we are in Washington, to impress on the US not only the importance of its continued commitment to Ukrainian security, but that Euro-Atlantic security is integral to US security. The US cannot simply look towards the Pacific; it needs to remain engaged in the Euro-Atlantic, in its own interests as well as those of NATO allies.

Oral Answers to Questions

Richard Foord Excerpts
Monday 8th January 2024

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Andrew Murrison Portrait Dr Murrison
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I understand my right hon. Friend’s interest in this matter. He can be sure that the special forces—although we never talk about them—are always at the forefront of our minds.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
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11. What military aid his Department plans to provide to Ukraine in financial year 2024-25.

James Heappey Portrait The Minister for Armed Forces (James Heappey)
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I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Secretary of State’s earlier answers to the former Secretary of State and shadow Secretary of State.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord
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In 2022, the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced what military aid the UK would make available to Ukraine through to April 2023; in September 2022, the subsequent Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), announced—a full 15 months ago—what military aid she would make available to Ukraine through to April 2024. Why has there not yet been an announcement on funding for Ukraine for the rest of 2024 and beyond?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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In the interests of brevity, I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answers given to the former Secretary of State and shadow Secretary of State earlier.

Service Accommodation

Richard Foord Excerpts
Tuesday 19th December 2023

(4 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
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It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Dame Angela. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Alistair Strathern). He gave an excellent speech and asked some really good questions—some really inquiring, curious questions—of the Minister, and we look forward to hearing the answers.

I shall present two anecdotes and make one comment about some of the effects of what we have talked about today. One anecdote relates to a time during my service, and another relates to some correspondence that I have received much more recently. The hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire talked about the experiences of people who are serving in his constituency. I served at Army Training Regiment Bassingbourn in Hertfordshire, just over the county border from Bedfordshire, and I have very fond memories of the good-quality single living accommodation at ATR Bassingbourn.

Five or six years later, living with a family in service family accommodation, my experience again was a good one. On one occasion, we had water dripping through the ceiling of the family home; we rang up to try to get it solved and it was fixed within days. That was an excellent rapid turnaround time for the service family accommodation at Shrivenham when I was there in 2009.

In some ways, that made me slightly sceptical when I heard all of these stories about service family accommodation being in such a poor state, so I decided that I would have some conversations with people who are still serving to find out whether that was really the case. Somebody who I trust a great deal told me me that they had a baby last year, and they had no mould-free room in the house to put the baby in. We have to bear in mind when talking about armed forces personnel in service family accommodation that many are younger people, who are starting their family.

I was frustrated to learn over the summer that the Defence Committee’s Sub-Committee that is looking into service family accommodation will not be hearing evidence directly from service personnel. I do not know whether that has been put right since, but I read over the summer that the Defence Secretary was not permitting service personnel to give testimony directly to that Sub-Committee.

Mark Francois Portrait Mr Francois
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Perhaps I can assist the hon. Member. That was the position of the previous Defence Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wyre and Preston North (Mr Wallace), but, in fairness to the new Defence Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps), he rescinded that instruction so that defence personnel were able to give evidence—certainly written evidence—directly to the Sub-Committee, without fear or favour for their career, as it were. It is analogous to what happened regarding the inquiry into bullying allegations from female personnel.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord
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I am grateful to the right hon. Member for that clarification. As a member of the Defence Committee, he will be much closer to this matter than I am. What he says has not stopped us as constituency MPs from receiving correspondence on the subject. I received a letter in October from a regimental sergeant major—a warrant officer, first class, who has had a very long career in the armed forces. He is frankly at the end of their career—a top-of-the-tree, very senior soldier. He wrote on behalf of his son, who is serving and clearly did not feel able to write directly. The RSM writes:

“Briefly my son, who was on exercise in Germany at the time, had left his wife and two sons (aged 5 and 3 months at the time) at home presuming they would be safe. Unfortunately, one evening my daughter-in-law heard a noise from upstairs and went to investigate. Imagine her shock and horror to find an adult rat in the baby’s cot!”

There is a series of letters about what this former senior soldier regards as having developed over the past 15 or 20 years. He talks about the substantial subcontracting that goes on. While VIVO was perhaps initially responsible, it subcontracted to Pinnacle, and then when the rodent infestation was being dealt with, there was a further subcontracting to Vergo Pest Management. That pest management company sought to deal with the rats in that one house, but failed to notice that the entire street was infested. He says that Nos. 1, 4, 5, 6, 12, 14 and 15 were all suffering from rat infestations.

It is plain to me that some of the companies responsible for this issue these days have noticed that it is clearly something they are under the cosh for. Indeed, many of us will have had an email from a lobbyist from Amey earlier today to say that it

“recognised the challenges that families faced with their accommodation during the mobilisation period of the new contract”.

I resent the defensive language used by some of these companies. When it mentions the “mobilisation” of the new contract, it is hiding behind language that the armed forces tend to use, and it is obfuscation.

Helen Morgan Portrait Helen Morgan
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My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. A mobilisation period under a contract is typically six to nine months. To my knowledge, it has been 18 months since that contract was implemented. We should not still be experiencing problems with it. That is why it is so important that we get clarification on whether steps are being taken to improve performance under it.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right that excuses to do with a contract handover period are hard to bear in any case, but certainly when such a great length of time has elapsed.

To bring all that to a conclusion, we need to step back from the detail and ask what this means. The Army is being shrunk to just 73,000 regular soldiers. That is a substantial drop from 84,000 even a year ago, and certainly a large drop from 120,000 when I was serving. Partly, that is due to a failure to retain excellent people. Clearly, the armed forces continue to retain some truly excellent people, but some great people are being lost to the service because of experiences such as those I have described. In the armed forces continuous attitude survey this year, just 34% of service personnel said they felt valued. If we do not realise that service is not just about the service person, but the experience of their wider family, we will continue to have these sorts of problems.

Ukraine

Richard Foord Excerpts
Tuesday 19th December 2023

(4 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

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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Well of course, this is the last sitting day. I would simply say—[Interruption.] I might sound like a stuck record, but this is so important. In this game, what matters is what we actually do on the ground. We have just announced a maritime coalition. We continue to send air defence systems, which are incredibly important. We have sent 300,000 artillery shells, thousands and thousands of helmets, 4 million pieces of small arms ammo. This is what matters. This is the action that delivers. We know there is more to do, and we are going to keep playing that role.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
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The Russian energy giant Gazprom earned £39 million last year from the North sea Sillimanite gas field, which is partly underneath UK waters. Gazprom is majority owned by the Russian state and is Russia’s largest taxpayer. Will the Minister talk to his counterparts in the Department for Business and Trade to avoid a situation where UK defence is giving generous military aid while the new Office of Trade Sanctions Implementation overlooks the Russian state funding of its aggression from the proceeds of the sale of North sea gas?

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

I am happy to look into that further.

LGBT Veterans Independent Review

Richard Foord Excerpts
Wednesday 13th December 2023

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Andrew Murrison Portrait Dr Murrison
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The answer is “with difficulty”, given what happened in 2010 for perfectly understandable and perfectly good reasons—it is the law of unintended consequences, is it not? I cannot give the hon. Lady that detail at the moment, because it is being worked out. It is so very difficult: if everybody had their records marked up, it would be quite straightforward, but they do not. We need to know who the folk are who are in scope, and then we need to look at what records exist. Many of those records had tags placed on them when papers were removed, which I think will help.

We also have to look at other schemes, such as the Canadian scheme. However, I suspect most right hon. and hon. Members in this House would be cautious about the Canadian scheme, because it drew the criteria very narrowly. Those who were nudged out, or inched out, through all sorts of means—innuendo, personal pressure, or being tipped the nod and the wink that somebody was on to them—would be disadvantaged under the Canadian scheme. I hope they will not be disadvantaged under ours.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
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The RAF lost a courageous serviceperson in 1997 when it sacked Carl Austin-Behan. Carl won the Royal Humane Society bronze medal for rescuing a pilot from a burning Hawk aircraft at RAF Chivenor. Last September, an inquiry found that there had been accelerated enlistment for women and ethnic minority candidates in the RAF, which was found to be dubious and possibly in breach of the Equality Act 2010. Clearly, we are not looking for that sort of overcorrection, but what assessment have the Government made of the legacy of the sackings of people such as Carl for recruiting the next generation of courageous gay service personnel?

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

Let me be absolutely clear: Defence wants people, regardless of their sex, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and social class. We just want people with talent—that is the touchstone for recruitment into the Army, Navy and Air Force right now. I do not care if people are gay; I welcome gay people serving side by side with everybody else. Our history is full of examples of the most courageous individuals who served in uniform and were gay.