8 Richard Holden debates involving the Ministry of Defence

Ukraine Update

Richard Holden Excerpts
Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. I echo the comments of the whole House, including those of my constituency neighbour, the right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones). I praise my right hon. Friend for his leadership on the issues we have been facing in Ukraine and over the last few years.

Obviously, in addition to the supply of lethal and non-lethal weaponry and supplies, one of the big things the UK has been doing is helping to train Ukrainian forces. Can my right hon. Friend confirm how many Ukrainian troops have been trained so far by the UK’s training programmes and how many we plan to train in the coming year?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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We have trained 7,000 so far. We are on target to complete 10,000, and then another 20,000-plus next year. It often depends on whether the Ukrainians are able to give us the training pipeline. Some of these people will be coming off the frontlines. It is always a challenge, but we are in the right position. We are well supported by the international community, and it is making a difference. We are now looking at what we can do with larger units, by helping Ukraine to train at company and battalion level. That would probably happen within Europe.

Ukraine

Richard Holden Excerpts
Thursday 22nd September 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alyn Smith Portrait Alyn Smith (Stirling) (SNP)
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It is a pleasure to take part in this debate. I have been struck by the thoughtfulness and decency of several contributions from hon. Members on both sides of the House. I am proud of the SNP’s role in these discussions. I am proud that, despite our domestic priorities and political differences, we have been able to work with the Government. I commend the Minister for the Armed Forces and Veterans on his opening speech, and the Defence Ministers on their openness and the way that they have worked with both sides of the House. That is genuine on our part.

Hon. Members can be damn sure that the SNP is part of the international coalition in defence of Ukraine: we believe in freedom, democracy and human rights and we believe that we should be good neighbours who should not live in fear of bigger powers. Of course, therefore, we are part of that and where we agree with the UK Government, we have agreed, as my good friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald) said. On military support and sanctions, we have been vocal in our support of the UK Government’s position. We have often urged greater efforts than we have seen, but we have supported them.

The only big difference between our position and that of the UK Government is on refugees. We would like to have seen the UK emulate the EU’s approach of waiving visas for three years. We think that would have been proportionate and fair. Instead, we saw a Home Office system that the Scottish Government have made work in Scotland. I pay tribute to the many big-hearted people across Stirling, Scotland and the UK who have opened not just their hearts, but their homes to the people of Ukraine who really needed support at that time. I was in Killin a few weeks back, and I was really struck by the care and affection that locals have had for the people who are guests in the community, and I do commend them on their effort.

It is right today that we take due stock of events in Ukraine. As we have heard, the conflict is at a pivotal moment. Ukraine is winning and the Kremlin is losing. We take no pleasure in that fact, but there is a justice to it, in that aggression is not successful and there have not been the results the Kremlin was hoping for. President Putin’s statement overnight came from a position of weakness, as we have heard. His nuclear blackmail and his activation of the reservists, breaking a promise that he made, come from a position of weakness, not strength. We must be vigilant to the true risks that are presented by the Kremlin’s aggression not just against Ukraine, but against the liberal international order.

We must also be steadfast in support of the Ukrainians themselves. We need to redouble our efforts. They are winning, but they have not won yet, and I fear there is an awful lot of heartache ahead for the Ukrainians before we see a resolution. So I was glad to hear from the Minister that military training and the supply of matériel and intelligence support will continue, and it does so with wholehearted SNP support. We may have points of difference and we will seek greater information on some points, but we do support that very strongly. I was also glad to hear that the eventual negotiated outcome—because there will be an eventual negotiated outcome; there always is to every conflict—is going to be on Ukrainian terms. A prerequisite for any talks, which as we have heard must be set from Kyiv, not from anywhere else, must be the withdrawal of all Russian occupying forces from all sovereign Ukrainian territory, including of course Crimea.

I say that the conflict is far from over, but I would suggest to the Government a few points that we need to continue and take forward, because we cannot take our foot off the pedal. We have heard mentioned already the Ukraine fatigue among the general population and among the media, and we must make sure that we are not succumbing to it as well. Ukraine continues to need our support.

We need to keep sanctions under review. I will be taking part for the SNP in the next debate, when we will revisit sanctions. We do need to keep them under review, to make sure that loopholes are closed because loopholes are being exploited, and we do need to make sure that any opportunity to raise pressure on the kleptocrats is taken. That is an evolving situation.

We also need to be honest about and to guard against the influence of dirty money at home now. The UK is vulnerable to this, and we have seen a belated start on this from the UK Government, with our support, but we need to see much more. Our financial and property systems are nowhere near as transparent as they need to be, and they are vulnerable to dirty money. The overseas territories are playing a role that needs greater scrutiny than they have had, and we need to continue those efforts. We have seen a belated start to that, but we need to see more.

On looking after refugees here, I have mentioned that people have opened not just their hearts, but their homes, and they need more support. We have seen a paper chase of a system that I do not believe is fit for purpose, but people have now largely negotiated through it. However, where we have seen too much paper chase, we are now seeing too little money. We strongly support—and we would really urge the Government to take this forward—doubling the monthly payment to £700 a month, because energy costs and the increased costs of having guests are hurting people, and that needs to be taken care of.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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To pick up the comments from my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith), there is a cost to this for people in the UK. He was right that we have to be honest about that, and I think the hon. Member is also making that point. However, we also need to reinforce the point that there is a bigger cost to our constituents if we do nothing. Does he agree with me on that point, and that we really need to ensure that people see we are doing this for a much greater reason? All the points he is making about refugees are absolutely right, but we are trying to prevent something much wider and much more destructive.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. That was quite a long intervention and there is a time limit, so such interventions do prevent other people from having their allocation. If interventions are taken, it would be good if Members could still stick to their five minutes.

Oral Answers to Questions

Richard Holden Excerpts
Monday 28th March 2022

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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It is not just advice; we offer a service whereby we will go to countries around Europe and pick up stuff and ensure that it gets to Ukraine. At the international donor co-ordination centre in Stuttgart, which I had the pleasure of visiting last week, the UK’s 104 Brigade headquarters is the global lead on co-ordinating how all that lethal and non-lethal aid arrives in countries that neighbour Ukraine and how it is moved on thereafter.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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With the next generation Challenger 3 turrets being built in the north-east, supporting hundreds of jobs, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory working with Newcastle and other local universities and Cook Defence Systems in my constituency providing armoured vehicle tracks for not just British tanks but those of NATO and European allies, will my hon. Friend ensure that the north-east’s firms and workers remain at the heart of British defence procurement?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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They are. Last Thursday, I had a great day opening the AI hub for DSTL in Newcastle and pressing the button to start production of the turrets for our Challenger 3 tanks, to which my hon. Friend referred. There is a great history of defence manufacturing in the north-east, and it will have an even greater future.

Ukraine

Richard Holden Excerpts
Friday 25th February 2022

(2 years, 1 month 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 Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I do not want to do the hon. Lady a disservice, but I understood her question to be whether the 1,000 troops will go into Ukraine, as they went into Kabul in the summer, to facilitate the egress of Ukrainians. I am afraid she will be disappointed, as that is simply not something that could be realistically done. This is a highly kinetic combat situation, and the probability of NATO troops being caught up in combat with Russian armed forces is far too high and would lead to huge escalation. The 1,000 troops who are on standby are there to support Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Poland with the expected humanitarian challenges they will face as people make their way out of Ukraine. They are at very high readiness, and we will get them forward as quickly as we can. As we warned when we changed the travel advice—my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe and I were on TV pulling no punches about the gravity of the situation, and we were telling people to leave urgently, precisely because there would be no opportunity to do as we did in Kabul in the summer.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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I thank the Minister and the whole Government for the leadership they are showing at an international level. In winter 2015 I went to Ukraine with the former Defence Secretary, as a special adviser, to see Operation Orbital as it was being deployed. As part of that, we laid wreaths for the fallen Ukrainian soldiers. As a special adviser I was given a single carnation to put down, but I felt slightly embarrassed in doing so as I did not feel that we were doing as much as we possibly could to help the Ukrainians. That is because although we were giving lots of support and lots of sanctions, we were also hamstrung by the fact that we could not get agreement by as many of our European allies as we wanted, for everything that we wanted to bring to bear.



Reports in The New York Times yesterday suggested that Germany, Austria and Italy were refusing to co-operate on SWIFT payments, that Belgium was trying to get an opt-out for its diamond markets, and that Italy was trying to get an opt-out from European Union sanctions on luxury handbags. Will the Minister ensure that all our diplomatic efforts are brought to bear on our European allies to ensure that they are not dragging their feet? We in this House, and our American allies, are really pushing forward to try to do everything possible to help the people of Ukraine.

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I thank my hon. Friend for his question. First of all, all diplomatic effort is being focused on this issue. It is definitely Her Majesty’s Government’s top foreign policy priority. I would argue that it is probably the top priority across Government full stop at the moment, in order to make sure that the response is completely cross-Whitehall and robust enough to have an impact on President Putin. I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate, however, that this is not a moment to think that a response must be provided within 24 hours, by the weekend or even by the end of next month.

This is about making sure that the western alliance does not fracture, that we bring the whole of the free world with us in its condemnation of Russia, and that Russia, as a consequence, is completely isolated. That is the way the cost is imposed on Putin over time, sufficient to ensure not only that he fails in his ambitions to take and hold Ukraine, but that he fails in his ability to remain as Russian President and to anoint a successor of his choosing when the time comes. It is absolutely essential that the diplomatic effort, even if it requires a bit of patience, brings with us the whole of the western alliance, because if Putin wants one thing more than the territorial gains in Ukraine, it is to see NATO fracture and article 5 no longer mean anything.

Oral Answers to Questions

Richard Holden Excerpts
Monday 5th July 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
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I welcome that question because, as I mentioned, apart from the physical provision, we are seeking a cultural change and an institutional shift across all our armed forces, led by the chain of command, in which people feel comfortable asking for help. We are already seeing a tangible benefit in that regard. I saw some of that up close when I visited the Op Courage clinicians in St Pancras last week.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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What steps the Government are taking to support regimental museums.

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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The MOD recognises the valuable role played by some 140 museums around the country and currently supports 53 Army museums through the provision of curators and infrastructure costs.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Holden
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I thank the Minister for his recent visit to Stanhope in my constituency where he saw British manufacturing at its best in the tracked vehicles for the armed forces. The Durham Light Infantry Museum was sadly closed in 2016 by the Labour-led Durham County Council as a cost-cutting exercise. However, keeping the collection in storage has actually proved more expensive than keeping the museum open. The new joint administration is looking to reopen that museum. Will he work with me and meet my hon. Friends the Members for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison) and for Sedgefield (Paul Howell), who are very keen on this new initiative, to see what the Ministry of Defence can do to get this museum reopened?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I greatly enjoyed the visit to Stanhope. If there is an opportunity to meet again, I would be delighted to do so. The DLI has an extraordinary record of service, as did the 68th Regiment that preceded it. I am delighted to hear that the council is reviewing the fact that the regimental museum is currently closed. Using museums to inspire young people not only with what their forebears did, but with the ongoing service of local people in the armed forces, must surely be welcomed by all parties.

Integrated Review: Defence Command Paper

Richard Holden Excerpts
Monday 22nd March 2021

(3 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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The hon. Gentleman actually raises an important point. At the beginning of the Command Paper is a chapter about the global trends and the direction. Climate change poses a security threat because it could deliver instability, poverty and problems in other parts of the world that would drive migrant flows and increase friction over precious resource. That is absolutely true.

The hon. Gentleman is also right to point out that one of the ways we are going to tackle our security threats is working together across the whole of Government to deal with them. The direction of travel on climate change will hopefully be set at COP26. Defence will play its part in both trying to solve its own emissions and making sure that it provides stability in some of the poorest countries, such as Sudan, where we recently had people, to make sure that the security threat sometimes delivered by climate change does not boil over and threaten regional stability.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con) [V]
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I welcome my right hon. Friend’s commitment to innovation, to the economy and to generating great high-skilled jobs right across the UK, such as those at Cook Defence Systems in Stanhope in County Durham, where we make the tracks for all Britain’s armoured vehicles. I would really like the Secretary of State to visit to see some of the innovative work being done there, as our tracked vehicles are maintained as part of the armed forces for the significant future.

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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I would be delighted to visit. We are investing in upgrading our Challengers and Ajax, and I would be keen to come to see how the engineering is done.

Oral Answers to Questions

Richard Holden Excerpts
Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Heappey Portrait The Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey)
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As the hon. Lady says, the MACA request for Hull was approved on 1 December, and four military planners have been provided to support the Humber local resilience forum until the end of January with specific areas of covid-related planning. If that planning reveals a demand for further military resource, I am sure that a further MACA request will be forthcoming, and we will consider it on its merits.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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The tradition of military service runs deep in County Durham, with young people from my constituency currently going through their training. Their parents are rightly proud of them and their achievements. When will parents’ physical attendance at passing-out parades be able to resume? May I also reiterate my previous invitation for a departmental Minister to come to visit suppliers in my county and constituency as soon as possible?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I know that the Minister for Defence Procurement, my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Jeremy Quin), is itching to visit the company in my hon. Friend’s constituency. As for attendance at pass-out parades, I know how much my own family enjoyed my pass-out parade at Sandhurst. These are big, big moments in the lives of soldiers and the families who support them. We have to work within the Government’s guidelines, but as soon as we can get parades open to family and friends again, we will do so.

Oral Answers to Questions

Richard Holden Excerpts
Monday 6th July 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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My right hon. Friend has been in this House long enough to know that he should not believe everything he reads in the newspapers, especially around the time of an integrated review. We in the United Kingdom believe that, as the motto of Sandhurst says, we serve to lead. We lead by contributing and giving, which we have done over the history of NATO. We are the biggest contributor to NATO in Europe. We are the provider of NATO’s nuclear defence in Europe, and we will continue to be a main leader in NATO. That is how we believe we will see off the threats we face from the likes of Russia.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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What assessment his Department has made of trends in the level of demand for tracked vehicles in the armed forces.

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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Armoured tracked vehicles remain at the core of Defence’s high-intensity war-fighting capability, and ongoing demand is evidenced in the Army’s investment in new fully digitised tracked Ajax vehicles.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Holden
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Cook Defence Systems in Stanhope in my constituency makes the tracks for all the Army’s fighting vehicles and increasingly for fighting vehicles overseas. Will the Minister join me on a visit to Cook Defence Systems to see what export opportunities could be achieved in addition to its work with the British Army?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I am grateful for that invitation. I am speaking to north-east defence companies on a call next week. Our ability to make physical visits to companies has clearly been restrained by covid, but as soon as my diary allows, I would be delighted to visit Cook Defence Systems in person.

--- Later in debate ---
Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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Only today, the permanent secretary and other officials attended the Public Accounts Committee to answer some of those questions, no doubt in detail. The point to be made is that the MOD spends £41 billion overall, and we make sure, where we can, that that is spent not only on the men and women of our armed forces, but on industry and equipment capability, such as, in Glasgow, buying two warships—both the Type 31 up at Rosyth and, indeed, the Type 26—which I never seem to hear the SNP ever really welcome.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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In the last few weeks, we have marked the 75th anniversary of VE Day and the 205th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, just two of the many occasions on which Britain has led the fight against tyranny across the world. Labour-run Durham County Council has recently announced a review of all monuments and statues in the county, and my hon. Friends the Members for Sedgefield (Paul Howell) and for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison) have joined me in asking that statues and monuments to anyone who fought for Britain be excluded from this review. Durham County Council has yet to agree to this request. Will the Secretary of State join me in writing to Durham County Council to support our campaign?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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The Government will never forget the bravery of all former servicemen and women who served their country, and it is imperative that we do not forget the sacrifices that were made so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today. The Ministry of Defence position is that memorials and statues that honour those who gave their lives should be protected.