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Defence Arctic Strategy

Volume 650: debated on Monday 26 November 2018

As the House is aware, on 30 September we announced that the MOD would produce a UK Defence Arctic Strategy. Officials are developing the strategy now, in consultation with key stakeholders at home and away. We expect it to be published early next year.

If we look at the here and now, the Defence Committee report, “On Thin Ice: UK Defence in the Arctic,” confirms that the UK should focus more on its operability and presence in the Arctic. Right now, there are currently no Royal Navy vessels in Scottish waters and no indication of any resources being applied. Should not the Minister be doing more to protect Scottish waters?

Let us be clear, there are lots of Royal Navy vessels in United Kingdom waters and, of course, any implementation of a Scottish strategy would be done within the realms of a United Kingdom strategy. I am pleased to say that earlier this year, for example, I visited HMS Trenchant on ICEX, in which it was the first British submarine in over 10 years to serve under the ice. Only this year we have had Royal Marines training in Norway. That will continue year on year, and they are training US marines. I am quite comfortable, and I am grateful for the Defence Committee’s report, “On Thin Ice,” as a result of which our activity is increasing.

I warmly congratulate the Government on recommitting the 800 Royal Marines who are to be trained in north Norway over a 10-year period. That training is world class; it is so good that we are training the US marines for cold weather. Does the Minister agree that not only is it first-class training but it is an extremely important strategic deterrent to Russia? Russia is only 200 miles away across an open border, where it has two brigades of ice-trained troops near Murmansk.

My hon. Friend is exactly right. Indeed, only last week I was in Oslo for a meeting of the Northern Group of nations. Collectively, we looked very carefully at what we can do together to complement each other, and I can assure the House that our Royal Marines are playing a valuable part in that training.