Ukraine Update Debate

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Department: Ministry of Defence
Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said. When the war crimes in Bucha and not far outside Kyiv were exposed, a group of us—including the United Kingdom, alongside the Canadians—began the process of gathering evidence for the International Criminal Court. My colleague the now former Home Secretary, who was then the Attorney General, visited Ukrainian herself, and worked with the then prosecutor. The Red Cross is also engaged in gathering such information. Its biggest challenge is the sheer scale of the amount of evidence that we are now uncovering.

The fact that Russia does not invade and occupy a country with any civility towards or regard for its people adds to the anxiousness of our friends in the Baltic states; Russia seems to destroy everything in its path. The worry of a small Baltic state is that it does not have time for the rest of us to get there. That is why we are committed to a battlegroup in Estonia. If we give Russia time, there will not be much left when we arrive. That is why we have to send a message that this course is unacceptable.

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts (Witney) (Con)
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I thank the Secretary of State for his calm yet robust response to the Rivet Joint Sukhoi incident, which is of course of great concern. I also pay tribute to the calmness and professionalism of the RAF crews during the incident.

Will the Secretary of State commit to continuing to keep under review the adequacy of the fighter forces we have available, bearing in mind the escort duties that he has now referred to as well as the ongoing combat air policing duties on NATO’s eastern front in any event?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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Yes; making sure we have more aircraft fighter capability in this country has been one of my priorities. On almost my first day in the job, I sent a letter to the Chief of the Air Staff stating that his No. 1 priority was to improve the fighter pilot pipeline; there is no point in buying planes if there is no one to fly them. It is incredibly important that we get those pilots.

Of course one of the challenges with the new F-35 is growing instructors. It is a Catch-22: there have to be enough pilots in the planes to grow the instructor body, but if there are not enough pilots in the first place, how do we do that? We are getting there, and the situation is improving. The Typhoon is proving its worth every single week. I went to the ceremony to hand over to Qatar the next iteration of the Typhoon. It is a formidable aircraft, which I hope will be bought by many other countries around the world.