Skip to main content


Volume 596: debated on Monday 8 June 2015

5. What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the contribution of the armed forces to tackling the spread of Ebola. (900119)

I would like to make the House aware that I have a declarable interest as a member of the Royal Navy Reserve. The Navy is investigating the most appropriate way for me to remain a reservist for the duration of my appointment as Minister for the Armed Forces. I will update the House in due course.

I thank my hon. Friend for enabling me to pay tribute to our armed forces who have served on Operation Gritrock, one of the most challenging operations in recent times, during which our medical professionals demonstrated tremendous skill and courage. Recent statistics show just 12 new cases of Ebola a week, well down from the more than 500 in November last year. The World Health Organisation currently assesses that Sierra Leone will be free from Ebola in a matter of weeks, and I am sure the whole House will want to join me in thanking our armed forces and our MOD civilians for all they have done in achieving that.

The Minister will be aware that personnel from RNAS Culdrose in my constituency sailed with RFA Argus last year as part of the Government’s reaction to the fight against Ebola. What assurances can she give that RNAS Culdrose will continue to be adequately resourced so that it can play a similar role in future crises?

Culdrose is certainly resourced for similar crises. In fact, only recently we deployed further personnel and three helicopters from there to assist in our operations to deal with the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean, where they are providing valuable information to the search and rescue operation. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to champion them.

I welcome the Minister to her new post, but may I gently remind her that the British Army’s capacity to intervene, even in helping with the Ebola crisis, will become more limited as time goes on, as America retreats as a pushy world power and we are more on our own in Europe and the world? The fact of the matter, as she knows, is that we could fit the whole of our defence forces into Wembley stadium, yet still she is in favour of cutting defence spending to below 2% of GDP.

As I speak, we have over 3,600 personnel deployed on 21 operations across 19 countries. We are actually doing more operations, although they might not have the profile of some recent operations, so our armed forces are still incredibly busy. We are also regenerating capability that was lost under the Labour Administration.