6 Tom Hunt debates involving the Ministry of Defence

Situation in the Red Sea

Tom Hunt Excerpts
Monday 5th February 2024

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt (Ipswich) (Con)
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I fully support the Government’s action in the Red sea. The irony of the Iranian regime accusing us of destabilising the region through our actions will not be lost on reasonable people. Does the Secretary of State agree that those demonstrators on the streets of London applauding what the Houthi rebels have been doing are at best useful idiots and at worst truly the enemy within?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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I use my own language, but it is disgraceful to see people go out and support those who are indiscriminately firing at merchant ships—that is absolutely appalling. I will not repeat my hon. Friend’s language; I will put that support down to ignorance rather than anything else.

Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committees Bill

Tom Hunt Excerpts
Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones (Pontypridd) (Lab)
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It is an incredible pleasure to follow the brilliant speech by the hon. Member for Aberconwy (Robin Millar). I commend and congratulate him on bringing this vital Bill to the House today, which will make a difference to our veteran community in Wales and throughout the United Kingdom. It was a privilege to be with him yesterday on the armed forces parliamentary scheme at Pirbright, along with the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) and colleagues in the other place. As the hon. Member for Aberconwy rightly says, the armed forces parliamentary scheme gives us parliamentarians not only an insight into the brave men and women serving in our armed forces, but an opportunity to speak to veterans in our own constituencies about what life is like for them after they have left service.

Something that is regularly brought up with me at constituency surgeries, or when I meet veterans in Pontypridd and Taff Ely, is the lack of support with and awareness of all the things the hon. Gentleman mentioned in his speech, particularly with respect to pensions and the challenges in accessing information and services. That is why I wholeheartedly support his Bill and why I support everything he does for our armed forces. He is a dedicated champion for them, and I thank him for that.

In Rhondda Cynon Taf we have a proud history of supporting our armed forces, whether that is our brave men and women serving in our armed forces, our reservists, our cadet forces, our veterans or the wider community—the friends and family of serving men and women. We are proud to have been the first Welsh local authority to receive the gold award from the armed forces covenant scheme, which represents our dedication to our armed forces in RCT.

I commend Councillor Maureen Webber, our fantastic armed forces champion, for leading the way in Rhondda Cynon Taf. She runs a veterans’ breakfast morning in Rhydyfelin community centre, which is incredibly well attended; I have had the honour of volunteering myself, serving our veterans a fry-up and even singing for them. I know the hard work of the men and women there to make that event happen, and it is brilliant.

There is much more work to be done for our veterans in this country, and the Bill is a vital step forward. It goes some way to tackling some of the challenges but, as we have said, there are myriad issues facing our veterans and their families, including unemployment and access to employment.

Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt (Ipswich) (Con)
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Does the hon. Lady agree that when veterans are looking for support with next steps in their career, they can often feel there is a bit of a stigma, and that therefore the access to veterans’ work coaches should be varied? Many say to me that the service is only by appointment and that they would like the option of a drop-in service as well.

Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones
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I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. He, too, is a member of our armed forces parliamentary scheme this term, and we have seen at first hand the impact on our serving community and the concerns they have about what will happen when they leave the forces. Where will they access employment? How will they get that support? That is a big concern and more needs to be done in that area. Having a drop-in service, or someone friendly who knows that information and who they can turn to and talk to, is vital.

As I have said, there is more to be done, but I do not wish to take up unnecessary time today championing this Bill. I just want to put on the record my complete support and my thanks to the hon. Member for Aberconwy for introducing it. We need to do more in this House to support our armed forces community and the wider community. I look forward to working with the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Rachel Hopkins), who I know is also dedicated to that, and to hearing from the Minister in his response what more we can do collegiately as a House to support our armed forces community.

Oral Answers to Questions

Tom Hunt Excerpts
Monday 12th December 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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One of the international treaties with the most signatures on it is on freedom of navigation across all seas. The United Kingdom stands strongly behind that and will uphold it wherever we can, hence our transit of HMS Defender in the Black sea. We will do that wherever we are able to do so in accordance with international law, and we will not be intimidated by Russia or any other nation.

Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt (Ipswich) (Con)
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It is clear to me that the armed forces will achieve their full potential only if they are as attractive as possible to neurodiverse thinkers, particularly in cyber. The need for unconventional thinkers has perhaps never been greater than it is now, but there can be challenges for them in meeting the core competencies of “soldier first” as well as in physical tasks, as I recently found out when it took me 25 minutes to put on a belt at Sandhurst as a neurodiverse individual. Will the Secretary of State outline what is being done to better attract the talents of neurodiverse individuals into the armed forces?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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The services are leading in trying to look at exactly that unconventional route in. If we are to attract people to the National Cyber Force and to cyber, we are going to have to think in different terms from 20 or 30 years ago. That is incredibly important. We need to be flexible, we need to be innovative and we need to be modern.

Fleet Solid Support Ships

Tom Hunt Excerpts
Friday 18th November 2022

(1 year, 5 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

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk
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It is perfectly true that there is an international collaboration, but I gently point out that that is not unusual and nor is it unwelcome. In any modern sophisticated piece of engineering, whether Typhoon or F-35, there will be an international component. If all nations produced everything themselves, that would become incredibly expensive and would defeat the object. Through international collaboration, which by the way we are proud of, we will produce something world-class and meet the needs of the taxpayer as well as the needs of our armed forces, and—I have not emphasised it enough before, so I must do so now—critically, a world-class shipbuilder will bring a lot of its technical know-how into Harland & Wolff, allowing it to build excellent ships long into the future.

Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt (Ipswich) (Con)
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I do find some of the anger from the Opposition Benches ever so slightly confected. It is also quite unusual for good news to be brought to the attention of the House by the Opposition. However, in terms of quality, will the Minister guarantee that the key consideration here is ensuring that the Royal Navy continues to be a gem and one of the reasons why we are so proud of our armed forces?

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk
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My hon. Friend made an excellent point at the beginning, because never was such good news more surprisingly UQ’d. This is excellent news for the United Kingdom and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans)—who is very kind and courteous in his dealings with me, for which I am grateful—for having done so. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Royal Navy is critical to the safety and security of this island nation. I was at Devonport earlier this week to see the work of an amazing crew on HMS Portland. To see the determination, commitment to the mission and sense of duty from those sailors and their captain was hugely inspirational. It is important for them to have confidence in their mission. We have confidence in them. That is important for the security of the United Kingdom.

Ukraine Update

Tom Hunt Excerpts
Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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From the international community, for example, Ukraine has consistently requested some of Israel’s electronic warfare capability. It is regrettable that, at the moment, Israel has not chosen to do that. I will be seeing the Israeli ambassador in the next few weeks to try to press the case.

One of the challenges I have talked about is the proliferation of precision weapons into the hands of basically low-level troops. We have highly sophisticated, complex weapons that take months to make and were originally designed to shoot down fighter aircraft. When they are used against fairly cheap, mass drones, Ukraine will run out of them quicker than they can be replaced. That is one of the lessons, and it is why electronic warfare to jam, divert or take over these things plays an important part. That is why we will all be looking at our capabilities and thinking about future challenges. It is as much about how we are going to do that as about how we can help the Ukrainians. Right now, we are helping the Ukrainians, and what we have learned is coming back into our system for ourselves.

Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt (Ipswich) (Con)
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I had the great privilege of attending a delegation to the Tapa British Army base in Estonia last week. We met His Majesty’s ambassador to Estonia, who is doing a fantastic job. There is obviously huge affection between the peoples of Estonia and Ukraine, as we saw when we had the great privilege of attending the Ukrainian ballet.

I also met my constituent, Laurence, at the Tapa army base. He is in 19 Tank Transporter Squadron, and I asked him, “How can I help you? What message can I take back to the Secretary of State for Defence?” His whole thought was about the vehicles and how they are looked after, protected and maintained; it was not about himself. Will the Secretary of State join me in respecting the dedication of Laurence, everyone in 19 Tank Transporter Squadron and every one of those proud British armed services personnel working at the Tapa army base to keep us and the people of Estonia safe?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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Yes. My hon. Friend was brave asking that question of a soldier—I have often had answers people did not expect. He espouses the real professionalism of our men and women. We were always taught, and I have never forgotten this, that it was, “My men, my kit, myself.” I hope Members will forgive the gender issue there. That shows the difference between us and the Russians: they do not seem to care about their men and their women, and seem to care only about themselves. That is why we see their army doing what they are doing. It is incredibly important that we have ready, capable equipment—that is the point I make to the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman): it is not just about mass and it has to be about things being properly serviced and maintained. The job that my hon. Friend’s constituent was doing is one of the key things—he is an enabler. In the past, it was the enablers they hollowed out, as long as they could talk about having a “frontline regiment” or “frontline tank regiment”. However, if you do not have the transporters, there is no point in having lots of tanks, because you will not go anywhere.

Oral Answers to Questions

Tom Hunt Excerpts
Monday 21st September 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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The hon. Member is wrong to make a connection between morale and numbers in that way. In my experience, and with the soldiers and sailors I have been meeting recently, morale is high. In my experience in serving, morale is mainly about when someone is used to do things usefully and when they are there on operations. He may like to reflect on the operational decline currently of our activity in our forces, which may well have some effect on morale.

On the issue of numbers, it is important not to reduce any armed forces debate to numbers alone. We need the size of the armed forces to be fit to meet the threat. It may be more. It may be less, but the key thing is to make sure we meet the threat and invest in those men and women we have who are serving.

Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt (Ipswich) (Con)
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I have recently spoken with the founder of the Combat2Coffee project in Ipswich, which does vital work supporting local veterans’ wellbeing. One of the key issues that he and other veterans are facing is the bureaucratic and sometimes distressing health assessments that they have to go through to get the pensions and benefits that they are entitled to. Will my hon. Friend look at streamlining this process to make sure that veterans living with challenges such as PTSD are not put off accessing the support they deserve?

Johnny Mercer Portrait Johnny Mercer
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I pay tribute to the men and women who work at Veterans UK. They have been working with historical records—paper records—for a long time. It could be a fairly unloved part of what the Government do. We are completely changing that and digitising all these records. It is our ambition that veterans’ care is in the palm of people’s hands, on a smartphone application by the end of this Government, and we will make sure that this is the best country in the world in which to be a veteran.