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Commons Chamber

Volume 709: debated on Monday 21 February 2022

House of Commons

Monday 21 February 2022

The House met at half-past Two o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Speaker’s Statement

Before we come to today’s business, I would like to make a number of short announcements. First, I would like to welcome the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is observing the start of our proceedings from the Gallery. Madam Speaker, we are delighted that you are able to join us. You and your husband, Paul, are very welcome.

Secondly, I wish to say how sad I was to hear of the death of Christopher Stalford, who served with distinction not only as a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, but as the Principal Deputy Speaker of that Assembly. I know all Members will wish to join me in sending our condolences to Christopher’s family, friends and colleagues. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.]

Finally, I know the whole House would like to join me in congratulating Team GB on their performance at the winter Olympics. While the performances of both the women’s and men’s curling teams were outstanding, I know Members would like to join me in recognising the achievements of all in Team GB who participated.

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

Ukraine: Territorial Integrity

May I, too, welcome the Speaker of the House of Representatives—it was a delight to sit next to her at the G7 Speakers conference—and also Congressman Adam Smith, the Chair of the House Armed Services Committee? The United States is truly our closest friend and ally, and in times like these we need each other more than ever.

The United Kingdom is unwavering in our support for Ukraine, along with allies and partners. We are committed to defending regional security. We have long supported Ukraine’s defence capability, as well as regularly exercising with its armed forces and via defence engagement channels. We must not allow Russia’s destabilising behaviour to influence the territorial integrity of any other sovereign state. The UK remains steadfast in its support for Ukraine.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the call he held for MPs last week, during recess, following his trip to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart. Could he expand on the value of that visit, and does this mean that defence engagement with Russia has been re-energised?

Diplomacy is, we feel, the only way out of this crisis. We are working through NATO and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, but Russia must uphold the international commitments it freely entered into and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty. Dialogue plays a full part in the United Kingdom and allied approach to mitigate mutual risk and enable both sides to discuss the full range of security issues, including where we differ.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his answer a few moments ago, and for his leadership in ensuring that both deterrence and diplomacy are used to stand up for the sovereignty of the people of Ukraine. Given the reports of thousands of civilians being taken from their homes and taken to Russia as part of forced evacuations—a clear breach of article 49 of the Geneva convention—can I ask the Secretary of State what discussions he and colleagues across Government have had about any future role for courts, including the International Criminal Court? It is vital that perpetrators know that they will be held to account for their actions in future.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The ICC obviously only has effect on the many members who are signed up to the treaties, and not every state is; the United Kingdom is, however. I think, fundamentally, this is about international law, and whether Russia respects international law and the previous commitments it has made to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine. If it fails to respect that international law, the international community will see it for what it is.

A few weeks ago, my right hon. Friend set out the defensive equipment that the UK is providing to the Ukrainian military. Since that time, there has been considerable additional build-up on its borders, so can I ask my right hon. Friend what plans he has to provide further equipment to the Ukrainian military?

My hon. Friend makes the important point that we have stood by our friends in Ukraine and, alongside the United States and other countries such as Canada and some of the Baltic states, provided lethal aid, as we call it. It is, however, important to recognise that, in this timeframe, there is only so much that can be deployed effectively. We will, however, keep everything under review, and it is important that we help people defend themselves.

For a decade, Russia has targeted Ukraine with cyber-attacks to damage its economy, undermine its democracy and terrify its people. In recent weeks, those attacks have grown both in magnitude and frequency. Can the Secretary of State outline what the UK is doing to assist Ukraine in protecting its critical national infrastructure from the current onslaught of Russian cyber-aggression?

Over the last few years we have been actively engaged in helping Ukraine both internally and externally across its whole government. Indeed, when I was Security Minister we were engaged there and I visited on two occasions for exactly that purpose. Currently the National Cyber Security Centre is involved in giving advice and support alongside our international allies to make sure Ukraine’s resilience is strengthened against the Russian playbook, as the hon. Gentleman rightly says.

The Secretary of State for Defence will know that I think he is a breath of fresh air in the job, but I also know that he shares my concern that we have been pushing down the numbers in our armed forces consistently over recent years. Can he give me an answer on this today: has the situation in Ukraine changed the mind of the Government, and will they now build up our armed forces so we can offer credible help to the poor people in Ukraine?

Our armed forces right now are providing support in covid, in the channel, in eastern Europe, and in Ukraine and elsewhere. We are currently running at about 78,000 for the strength of our Army, and the hon. Gentleman will not have noticed, although he is obviously in agreement with me, that we increased the original commitment up an extra 500 from 72,500 to 73,000. I have always said the size of our armed forces and defence budget should be threat-led: if the threat changes we should always be prepared to change it. At present, I am minded to stay where we are, but we should also reflect that what we see in Ukraine is that our real strength is our alliances: 30 countries in NATO is the strongest way to achieve mass against a force such as Russia. That is why NATO remains strong and united.

It is very difficult to know what is going on in President Putin’s mind. Does the Defence Secretary spot a difference however between the perceptions of General Gerasimov and the other generals about the wisdom or otherwise of an invasion of Ukraine and those of the Kremlin? Secondly, given that President Putin has stated that Ukrainians and Russians are the same people, would it not be phenomenally hypocritical to launch an attack on people he considers to be the same people?

I regret to say there was absolutely not a slither of difference between the President and General Gerasimov and Minister Shoigu when I met them a few weeks ago; they are some of his closest advisers and supporters and it is clear that their vision of Russia matches that of their President. The hon. Gentleman is also right to point out that they claim the Ukrainians are their brothers—in fact they are their “kin”, rather than brothers—to launch attacks on people who were part of the Soviet Union for decades together has a retrograde effect. As we know now, Ukrainians who probably were not that bothered 10 years ago about which way they faced are absolutely determined that they are going to stand for Ukraine and fight for their freedom.

May I join you, Mr Speaker, in welcoming our American friends to the House of Commons today?

Last week I saw at first hand how UK and American efforts are working hard to support our friends in Ukraine, so I commend both Governments on their efforts, but I remain concerned that NATO, the most formidable military alliance in the world, could have collectively done more in previous months to deter an invasion but chose to hide behind the fact that Ukraine is not a NATO member. Yes, we have shored up our NATO flanks, but that still leaves Ukraine exposed. Does the Secretary of State agree that Ukrainian security is European security, and by committing greater support to Ukraine we are trying to prevent a war rather than start one? And with the threat of invasion imminent, may I also call on the Secretary of State to provide more military support to Ukraine?

I fully agree with my right hon. Friend that Ukraine is part of Europe; Ukrainians consider themselves European, and it is absolutely the case that the ripples of anything that happens in Ukraine will be felt right across Europe whether it is in NATO or not. NATO is not preventing individual countries from strengthening Ukrainian security and capability through bilateral arrangements: the United Kingdom has done it, and so too has Sweden—it is not part of NATO but nevertheless stood up for its values and stood side by side.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, and may I extend a warm Labour welcome to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and her team this afternoon?

The Government have Labour’s full support in assisting Ukraine in confronting Russian aggression and pursuing diplomacy even at this eleventh hour, and we also fully support moves to reinforce the security of NATO allies, as the Labour leader and I told the Secretary-General at NATO HQ earlier this month. However, although the doubling of UK troops in Estonia is welcome it looks like an overlap in rotation, not a reinforcement; for how long will this double deployment last, and beyond the steps already announced what more is the Secretary of State willing to do to reinforce allies on NATO’s eastern flank?

I am grateful to the right hon. Member. Mr Speaker, may I make a quick apology? There will be a statement on Ukraine after questions, but the statement has not yet arrived with my colleagues, or indeed with me, even though I did write it. There we are—bureaucracy in action. I do apologise to the House.

As the right hon. Member said, the overlap on relief in place can be there for as long as we like. We can keep it that way and we can reconfigure. Indeed, one purpose of forward-basing our armoured vehicles in Sennelager in Germany is to allow us that flexibility, with the vehicles forward and the people interchangeable. We will keep it under constant review. In addition, we have sent up to 350 personnel into Poland to exercise jointly and show bilateral strength, and 100 extra personnel from the Royal Engineers Squadron are already in Poland helping with the border fragility caused by the Belarusian migration. In addition, at the end of March we have Exercise Cold Response, which will involve 35,000-plus.

Whether or not President Putin gives the go-ahead to military invasion, this unprecedented military intimidation is part of a long pattern of aggression against western nations, including attacks on British soil and against British institutions. Does Ukraine not expose the flaws in the Government’s integrated review of last year with its focus on the Indo-Pacific and its plan to cut the British Army by another 10,000 soldiers? In the light of the threats, will the Secretary of State halt any further Army cuts and restore the highest defence priority to Europe, the north Atlantic and the Arctic?

Contrary to the right hon. Member’s observation on the integrated review, I think that it has been proved correct. First, alliances—whether NATO, bilateral or trilateral, and whether in the Pacific or Europe—are the most important way in which we can defend ourselves. We are reinvesting in NATO and are now its second biggest spender. Yes, troop numbers are scheduled to reduce, but spending on defence is going up to a record amount, and an extra £24 billion over the comprehensive spending review period is not money to be sniffed at. The integrated review is also a demonstration that, with further defence engagement and investment in sub-threshold capabilities such as cyber through the National Cyber Force among other areas, we can improve the resilience of countries that get vulnerable to Russian sub-threshold actions.

What lessons have our Government drawn from the consequences for Ukraine of its decision in 1994 unilaterally to give up all the nuclear weapons that it had inherited from the Soviet Union in return for assurances on a piece of paper?

That shows that we must ensure that the Budapest memorandum—the signature between Russia and Ukraine in 1994—is stuck to. Russia should honour all the treaties that it has signed as well as its statements to ensure that mutual recognition of each other’s security is upheld. If it does not do that, as my right hon. Friend rightly says, that opens up all sorts of questions about how much of Russia’s word we can trust. If we cannot trust its word, I am afraid that it is a dangerous place to be in Europe.

On behalf of the Scottish National party, I welcome Speaker Pelosi and the American delegation to the Chamber. I also congratulate Team GB and yes, in particular, that fantastic curling team that so many of us have been enjoying in recent days.

As the Defence Secretary knows, we have supported the Government’s actions in helping Ukraine to defend itself against its neighbouring aggressor. Indeed, the Government’s actions in giving military support are an act against war. However, during my visit to the Ukrainian capital a couple of weeks ago, I heard concerns at Government and parliamentary level about them still missing some support that I understand they had discussed with his Department. Will he assure us that those discussions are ongoing or give us an update?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. On his comments about the winter Olympics, I have one of only two English curling rinks at Barton Grange in my constituency. I look forward to a Scots abroad event.

We are open to all sorts of suggestions. I speak regularly to my defence counterpart in Ukraine, and it is incredibly important that, should we get through this with a diplomatic solution, we continue to help support Ukraine’s resilience both in capacity building and training and in nation building to ensure that it is a strong and secure state.

I am grateful for that answer. I may be jumping the gun slightly—I suspect the Secretary of State might come to this in his statement after questions—but one thing we were asked about a lot there was the new grouping between Ukraine, Poland and the United Kingdom. The detail on that is not quite out there just yet. Will he update the House on exactly what the new grouping hopes to achieve? Can he give an assurance that it will complement the work of other allies, rather than overlapping it?

We are working through those details right now and, as soon as I can, I will update the hon. Gentleman and the House. It is incredibly important we recognise that Ukraine borders a number of major NATO countries that will feel the direct consequence of an invasion. It is also important that President Putin’s view of many of those countries, which he himself has written down in previous essays, could continue should he be successful in Ukraine. It is therefore really important that the UK plays a strong role in reassurance not only of NATO countries, but of other friends such as Sweden and Finland.

Tackling Illegal Migration

3. What steps his Department is taking to support the Home Office to tackle illegal migration. (905586)

Defence primacy in the English channel, under Operation Isotrope, will seek to prevent the arrival of small boats on their own terms in the UK, while ensuring the safety of life at sea. We are working closely with the Home Office and others to deliver that outcome.

Would my hon. Friend express his thanks to those brave armed forces personnel currently supporting UK Border Force in the important work it is doing in the channel?

I would, and it is an opportunity to remark on the fact that, whether at home supporting the work of Border Force in the channel and with defence personnel still involved in the response to the pandemic, or overseas as we are seeing in the news every day at the moment, our nation’s armed forces are available at all times to do whatever is required to keep this country safe and secure.

On the radio last week, the Minister said that to undertake Operation Isotrope the Ministry of Defence will have to acquire new boats. Will he give an assurance to the House that they will be procured in the UK and not follow the example of the Home Office, which has, to date, purchased such equipment from Holland?

The right hon. Gentleman refers to an interview in which I mentioned that they may be leased, rather than procured. As I went on to explain in that interview, there are a number of different platform types that will have different degrees of relevance and utility in the channel, all of which are under consideration to ensure that the right balance of platforms is available for what will be a very tricky task.

Would that not all be unnecessary if the French just controlled their own border? Our forces could then be redeployed, not protecting things in the channel. Are the French not at fault?

In the interests of bonhomie I will refrain from using such forthright language, but my hon. Friend certainly has a point.

In the last two years, the number of migrants making dangerous channel crossings has tripled, with the Home Secretary failing to tackle people smugglers. Now the Navy has been called in. Will the Minister clearly outline the Navy’s role and explain why the Ministry of Defence is being sidelined in discussions with our French counterparts?

The role of the Royal Navy, as we said in the urgent question a few weeks’ ago, is principally in the control and co-ordination of a wide range of Government assets that we would argue are, at the moment, not brought to bear in the most coherent way towards the task at hand. The Royal Navy is looking at that and augmenting it with some Royal Navy platforms, both ships and surveillance and reconnaissance platforms. It is important to note, however, that most Royal Navy platforms do not have the outboard height required to be meaningfully part of any interdiction operations in the channel, so principally it is a command and control co-ordination exercise. If there are extra assets we can bring, we will.

Helicopter Manufacturing and Supply Chains

6. What steps his Department is taking to help ensure the resilience of the helicopter supply chain in the UK. (905589)

17. What steps his Department is taking to help ensure the resilience of helicopter (a) manufacturing and (b) supply chains in the UK. (905601)

We recognise the need to manage risk and ensure resilience in our manufacturing and supply chains, including rotary wing. Through past and current investment in rotary wing capabilities, including Wildcat and Apache, and upgrades to Merlin and Chinook, the UK industrial base remains well placed to support existing and future helicopter platforms, and continues to be a market of great interest to our industrial partners.

I thank the Minister for that response and I declare an interest as chair of the Unite group of Labour MPs in Parliament. Further to my Defence question of 15 November, when I asked the Minister what steps his Department was taking to ensure the resilience of the helicopter supply chain in the UK, will he now assure the House that, whoever wins the contract, the new Puma-replacement helicopters will be both manufactured and assembled here in the United Kingdom?

As we and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State have said, the competition for the new medium helicopter contract, to which I believe the hon. Gentleman refers, will be launched very shortly. Given the skills and capabilities in this country and the nature of that competition, I am confident that a very substantial amount of benefit will flow to the UK as a result of that procurement.

I also declare an interest and I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame Morris). We do not want to get into another situation like the one with the fleet solid support ships. Will the Government ensure that the value to the UK of placing the contracts with UK suppliers and UK manufacturers is included and priced into the deal and the contract?

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. It is absolutely critical that we ensure that the social value associated with the contract is fully and fairly reflected in the tendering process. He has my assurance that we will do that and, as I said, it will not be long before he will be able to see more on that subject.

I entirely agree with others who have spoken about the importance of British manufacturers producing these things, but we have a very strong relationship with the United States of America and I welcome the fact that we have ordered 50 new Apache attack helicopters and are upgrading our Chinooks. Does the Minister acknowledge, however, that Boeing UK is now the fourth or fifth largest supplier to the MOD and that, as a British manufacturer, it is hoping to export goods—the new aeroplanes—to America soon?

It is indeed, and my hon. Friend is absolutely right that Boeing is a strategic partner of ours. It also invests heavily, and I pay tribute to its work to enhance apprenticeships and its academic work, including in the far north of Scotland from our base at Lossie. It is an important strategic partner that brings value to the UK.

I am going to do something quite surprising and agree with the Secretary of State when he says, of the helicopter competition, that he does not want a “here today, gone tomorrow” supplier. What are the Minister’s plans to ensure that there is long-term investment in the UK helicopter industry, particularly in high-value engineering design and manufacturing jobs; apprenticeships; and enduring skills development in this vital industry?

On the NMH, to which the hon. Gentleman refers, it is likely, given the timescale—we want to have the helicopters in service in 2025 or as close to that as possible—that we will be seeking to procure an existing platform. However, that absolutely does not gainsay the fact that we will want to see real social value created in terms of engineering skills and capabilities in this country. That will be part of the competition.

Dalgety Bay: Radioactive Material

7. What recent discussions officials in his Department have had with representatives of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency on radioactive material detected at Dalgety Bay following the disposal of aircraft in that area after the second world war. (905590)

I am delighted that we are en route to the complete remediation of Dalgety Bay. Environmental sensitivities inevitably have a significant impact on the length of time that it is taking to complete the project. MOD and SEPA officials last met formally on 24 November. SEPA also has representatives on site continually to monitor the work that is being undertaken.

I give the apologies of my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Kenny MacAskill), who has been turfed off a train on his way to the House.

I thank the Minister for that answer. The people of Dalgety Bay in my Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency have had to put up with radioactive waste on the shore since the second world war. Thanks to the dogged determination of my predecessor, Roger Mullin, and my persistence, work on that began last May. However, the Ministry promised me and the community that it would keep us updated on progress, but we have had nothing from the MOD since May 2021. Will the Minister say why, and make sure that an update is forthcoming?

I can give the hon. Gentleman an update now. As I think he is aware, we assumed that it would take two seasons to do the complete remediation. I very much hoped that it would therefore have been concluded by the autumn of this year. He is aware of the issues with birdlife that ensure that there is only a set period of time in which we can work. We applied for, and got, extended time to work last summer, and we will apply again for extended time this year. I hope that that will be sufficient, but I have to share with the hon. Gentleman that work may not be concluded until 2023. I hope that that will not be the case, but it is possible; we are keeping it under review. I will write further to the hon. Gentleman.

Armed Forces: Diversity and Inclusion

The Ministry of Defence puts diversity and inclusion at the heart of everything we do: we regard it as mission-critical. Our ambition is a 30% inflow of women by 2030. Army recruitment for ethnic minorities is currently at 11.7%. We know that we must build a diverse force to tackle the diverse threats that our nation faces.

Improving recruitment in areas such as Wolverhampton would really help diversity in the armed forces. Wolverhampton also has a very high rate of unemployment. What more can the Department do to ensure that every young person in Wolverhampton is aware of the fantastic opportunities open to them in the armed forces?

I should put it on record that Wolverhampton has a long and very proud tradition of people in the armed forces. What we can do is point out that recruiting is undergoing constant improvement. I invite my hon. Friend to visit her Army recruitment centre on Queen Street in Wolverhampton to celebrate the amazing careers on offer for young people.

Improving diversity and inclusion in the armed forces must also mean supporting disabled veterans. The veterans mobility fund closed last year, passing the financial burden to charities such as Help for Heroes to fund essential mobility equipment that is not available on the NHS. As forces charities face funding pressures, does the Minister feel that that decision is fair?

Of course we face constant pressures, but I should put it on record that we have doubled the amount that normally goes into supporting our magnificent armed forces charities. It is only right that we work in partnership with those magnificent people.

On inclusion, the Defence Secretary will be aware that several parliamentarians have been lobbying hard, but privately, to get visa fees abated or preferably culled completely as a function of service. Please may I ask where we are with the consultation and with any announcements that may be forthcoming?

We acknowledge with gratitude my hon. Friend’s active role in the debate. He should wait for news this week on that issue.

Women in the Armed Forces

Women are an integral part of our armed forces and have thriving careers. The Defence Committee’s report on women in the armed forces made a number of important recommendations. Having tested them, the Ministry of Defence’s own service women’s network has adopted almost all the recommendations and in many cases has taken them further.

Women serving in the forces alongside their husband or partner have lost out on their military accommodation when they have reported incidents of domestic violence, because the Army has prioritised the needs of the male soldier. Women have also missed out on promotions or career opportunities as a result of reporting. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that victims of domestic violence are not further victimised by armed forces processes when they are brave enough to make a report against a serving soldier?

I am saddened to hear what the hon. Lady says. I would be delighted to meet her to discuss it; if she brings along the detail of the examples to which she refers, I will be very happy to sort this. No one should be disadvantaged for making a service complaint, or indeed a criminal complaint, whether they are male or female. We do not in any way tolerate domestic abuse or sexual abuse in the armed forces.

May I pay tribute to the appointment and work of our defence attaché in Vietnam, Bea Walcot, who may be taking up another south-east Asian appointment before long? Does the Defence Secretary agree that there is huge potential for women in such roles, which combine diplomacy and procurement as well as armed forces expertise?

Some of our best ambassadors are women, and I hope that soon even more of our best defence attachés will be women. Defence engagement is an extremely important part of defence. The defence Command Paper committed to investing in that network, not only with better infrastructure, but with better training and support. She does a fantastic job. I would like to see many more; I also think that it is a great career opportunity.

Small Boat Channel Crossings

The Government have spent more than £200 million on deals with the French authorities and £780,000 on two Navy vessels, and have not intercepted a single boat. Now they are insisting on push-back tactics, which the Navy has rightly said it will not use. The human cost is harrowing. In November, 27 people, including children, died when their boat sank. Instead of wasting more taxpayers’ money on unworkable initiatives, will the Minister finally back the solutions that will fix this crisis—opening safe routes of passage, meaningfully engaging with the French authorities, and implementing a proper plan to tackle people smuggling?

I am not sure that those elements are mutually exclusive. I absolutely agree with what the hon. Lady said at the end of her question—her suggestions for a solution—but I think that the measures she advocates must sit alongside a robust and resilient effort in the channel to ensure that even when they are in place, we are still able to protect our borders and stop people landing here on their own terms.

UK-Australia Security and Defence Co-operation

13. What steps his Department has taken to strengthen security and defence co-operation with Australia. (905596)

AUKUS is a generational commitment to the security of the Indo-Pacific. Last month I agreed with my Australian counterpart additional steps to deepen our bilateral co-operation in the region, building on the deployment of two UK offshore patrol vessels and facilitated by an enhanced British defence staff in Canberra.

The AUKUS deal highlights the benefits of co-operation between the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. The RAN’s first boat, the HMAS AE1, was lost with all hands in 1914. In May this year, the sacrifice of those who gave their lives then—and nearly 6,000 others in the service—will be commemorated with a submariner memorial. More than half a million pounds has been raised to fund it, under the guidance of one of my constituents who is the project director. Will the Secretary of State join me in thanking our submariners for all that they do in the protection of our country, and will he attend the dedication if he can?

My hon. Friend has highlighted a very important part of our armed forces. I pay tribute to the submariners who keep us safe 24 hours a day around these shores. There have been 50 years of the continuous at-sea deterrent, and before that they played a strong role in both defeating the Nazis and, indeed, ensuring that we were protected. Few of us are privileged to know what they so often do under those seas. I want to join my hon. Friend in remembering those early submariners who, in 1914 and subsequently, made the ultimate sacrifice, not only in the service of their country but in pushing the boundaries to take us to where we are today.

It is encouraging that the AUKUS agreement has bipartisan support in all three countries, but surely the Secretary of State will accept that it has to be about more than submarines and the military themselves. How are we going to co-operate to deal with the pressing problem of supply chain resilience and security, which is an increasingly weak point for our military effectiveness and sustainability?

The right hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the fragility in the submarine supply chain, which concerns not just us but the United States, and indeed all those involved. These are highly complex boats, and keeping them maintained and ensuring that they are also a skill base is a real challenge for us all. That is why we have invested in a record number of apprentices, and have increased much of the necessary funding. As the right hon. Gentleman suggests, AUKUS must be not only about capacity-building and capability in themselves, but about how the United Kingdom and the United States industrial base can assist, support and develop those capabilities in Australia. It cannot be done on its own; it has to be done with all of us.

Defence Space Strategy

Over and above the £5 billion already committed to satellite communications, we are investing an additional £1.5 billion in space capabilities. The defence space strategy sets out our focus on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, satellite communications, space domain awareness and space commander control. This clear strategic direction has been welcomed by industry and allies alike.

Space, in all its guises, presents us with an unparalleled opportunity to drive British science and technical innovation, create well-paid and rewarding jobs, boost our economy, and above all defend ourselves. Can my hon. Friend expand on what he has said, and tell the House what the MOD is doing to ensure that we deliver all those opportunities?

My hon. Friend is correct in every respect. That additional £1.5 billion of investment implies very significant space R&D and the jobs, skills and expertise that go with it. It includes investment in things such as ISTARI, our ISR programme, It also includes innovation spending, as part of the £1.5 billion package, and programmes such as Minerva. Through that investment, we are not only ensuring that we meet the threats of the future, but helping to build capability, expertise, skills and jobs that will serve defence and the wider civil space programme.

Ukraine: Support for NATO Allies

15. What steps his Department is taking to support NATO allies in response to the build-up of Russian troops and assets on the border of Ukraine. (905599)

The UK continues actively to support its allies on NATO’s eastern front. The Prime Minister recently announced a further uplift of UK Defence support to eastern allies, including doubling the number of UK troops in Estonia, deploying more RAF aircraft to southern Europe, and deploying HMS Trent and a Type 45 Destroyer to the eastern Mediterranean.

I recognise the efforts being made by the French President to ensure that we have a peace summit, and I pray that he is successful. Unity with our allies matters now more than ever—a point that I hope some Conservative Members will take into account before making cheap populist swipes at our allies and neighbours. What are the UK Government doing to ensure that we have a united European and NATO strategy to demonstrate our commitment to Ukraine and our deep desire for a diplomatic solution?

All of us, including the French President, are signed up to the NATO alliance—all 30 of us. Indeed, it was NATO that responded to Russia’s draft treaty that it offered in December; we responded in January. That is the common position that we are all bound to, and in that position we will not reward aggression or compromise on NATO’s open-door policy. We will stick together as an alliance to defend the sovereign rights of countries and their right to choose, irrespective of what they do to that choice.

Armed Forces Apprenticeships

16. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Education on increasing apprenticeships in the armed forces. (905600)

We are proud that the armed forces are one of Britain’s biggest providers of apprenticeships. Since 2014, we have enrolled more than 96,000 apprentices, and there are around 21,000 apprentices at any time. I was honoured recently to meet apprentices from across all three services who are doing qualifications from level 2 all the way to degree courses.

I want to thank the Secretary of State and his team for the dignity that they have shown in the recent affairs with Ukraine and Russia.

The Ministry of Defence is doing a huge amount of work with apprenticeships, which other Departments should follow. Harlow has a remarkable cadet programme in the Navy, RAF and Army. Will the Minister look at whether cadets who would like to stay on in the armed forces can then progress into a military apprenticeship, and will he come and visit the remarkable cadet scheme in my constituency?

Of course all young people should be aware of the amazing opportunities for apprenticeships and careers in the armed forces. I would be honoured to visit my right hon. Friend’s constituency to see that scheme at first hand. The bottom line is that military service gives people skills for life.

Several years ago, a young man came to see me. He was about to leave school and he was as keen as mustard to join the armed forces. However, he had been diagnosed as being on the spectrum, and although I wrote to the then Defence Minister, he fell at the first hurdle and could not join and have the career that he wished for. Is the possibility of recruiting people who are on the spectrum being considered? It could be fantastically useful in terms of the cyber threat that we clearly face.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We are actively considering recruiting people with neurodiversity, because of their capacity for working in the cyber sphere. I am pleased that he has raised this issue, and I can confirm that we are actively looking at it.

Army Reserve: Recruitment and Retention

18. What steps his Department is taking to improve (a) recruitment and (b) retention in the officer corps of the Army Reserve. (905602)

The new Army Reserve under the future soldier programme will improve recruitment and retention across the whole reserve force. We are doing that by improving the offer and giving young officers and reserve soldiers the opportunity to train and deploy with regulars, globally and nationally.

Does my hon. Friend accept that reserve officers join in order to have opportunities to deploy and train, commanding in formed units? Why does the future soldier narrative prioritise individual augmentation over deploying formed bodies for overseas roles short of all-out war?

I agree with my hon. Friend that reserve officers seek to deploy in formed units, and we are in agreement with that. That is why it is in black and white in the future soldier programme. We should not deny the opportunity for individuals, whether they are officers or enlisted people, to deploy on operations or training to gain valuable experience.

Eastern Europe: Support for NATO Allies

As I confirmed at the NATO Defence Ministers meeting last week, we will double the number of UK troops stationed in Estonia and deploy two Royal Navy ships to the eastern Mediterranean, and our RAF fast jet deployment in southern Europe will be increased to squadron strength. That comes on top of the deployment of 350 Royal Marines to Poland to support the Polish armed forces.

The current forward-deployed forces of the UK and NATO were put in place in 2017, at a time when Russia was acting belligerently. Circumstances have since moved on significantly, and Russia is not just belligerent but openly hostile. It is supporting Belarus with the weaponisation of migrants, as well as building up the most significant military force since the second world war. Will the Secretary of State therefore give more detail on the planning in the Ministry of Defence and NATO should further reinforcements be needed, and for any refugee crisis that might follow?

A few weeks ago, at a donor conference, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe requested that members of the NATO alliance put forward a range of forces—I listed some of them—and we are guided by where he wishes to deploy them to provide either resilience, reassurance or containment. NATO has a range of options that it can deploy at times of crisis, such as graduated response plans, and they will no doubt play in should Russia make the foolish mistake of invading Ukraine.

Topical Questions

Despite current global events, the Ministry of Defence remains firmly on course to deliver the biggest modernisation of our armed forces. Today we published the “Defence Equipment Plan 2021-2031”, which sets out our plans to deliver against the priorities we outlined in the integrated review last year. Backed by a more than £24 billion spending increase over this four-year spending period, the equipment plan sets out how military capability will evolve to meet emerging threats. Defence procurement will be at the cutting edge. This implies risk but, through the defence and security industrial strategy and our ambitious acquisition reform programme, we are determined to deliver for defence and for the taxpayer.

Less than a couple of weeks ago, a boat ran aground close to Rye harbour at low tide and 21 migrants disembarked and disappeared on the run. It is reported that Border Force later turned up to the village to inform locals that 16 of those migrants, without identification, had been arrested. How can the MOD work with Border Force and the Home Office to take control, defend and protect our borders from migrants entering the UK—

Order. The hon. Lady knows that topical questions have to be short and punchy. You cannot make full speeches on a topical question.

My hon. Friend highlights one of the big challenges in controlling the channel. I reassure her that is exactly the situation we are trying to deal with. We must ensure that we intercept each vessel so that they cannot arrive in this country on their own terms. Under Operation Isotrope, we are planning to take an enhanced role in controlling cross-Government assets to tackle such migration flows.

Mali’s military rulers recently hired 1,000 Russian mercenaries, and four days ago France announced the withdrawal of all of its 2,400 troops based in Mali to combat the growing threat from Islamist terrorist groups. What changes will the Defence Secretary now make to the 300-9 UK troops stationed in Mali?

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to point out the challenge with the French, as effectively the framework nation, withdrawing from Mali and the woeful state of the Malian Government’s relationship with the Wagner Group, which has put us in a very difficult position.

The United Kingdom is obviously deployed in the UN multidimensional integrated stabilisation mission in Mali—MINUSMA—alongside the Germans and the Swedes, and we are now reviewing our next steps. The United Kingdom is, of course, committed to the UN effort as a good UN citizen, and we will do what we can to help west Africa. The right hon. Gentleman is, however, right to point out the corrosive and destabilising influence of the Wagner Group, which raises many questions. We will keep that under review and return to the House with more details.

T5. We now know that the cold war is back with a vengeance. We regularly spent between 4.5% and 5% of GDP on defence in the closing stages of the cold war. Has the time come to set a higher target than a bare 2%? Surely 3% should be a minimum. (905614)

I think I win the bet for predicting my right hon. Friend’s question. It is absolutely clear, as I have always said, that our defence budget and our defence disposition should be based on the threat. If the threat changes, we should be perfectly open to considering changes, and we will. I will certainly pray him in aid if I make the case.

We should also recognise that the NATO alliance, collectively, well outspends Russia. All 30 nations together spend hundreds of billions of pounds on defence, way above what Russia spends. That is the strength of the alliance, and it is why we need 30 members. That is why we can make a difference to Russia.

T3. Following the cyber-attacks in Ukraine last week, how are the Government strengthening cyber security at home in response to growing threats and Russian aggression? (905611)

The national cyber-security strategy, which in effect started under the last Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has developed over the years, with significant funding—I believe it was £19 billion in the 2010 Government—and established the National Cyber Security Centre. Alongside GCHQ, that has made real step changes in improving our cyber-security. We are, of course completely aware that Russia plays across the global cyber-network and does not just focus on Ukraine; we have already experienced a number of cyber-attacks from Russia over the past few years. We stand ready to defend against it and will continue to do so.

T7. [R] As the proud mum of a Royal Navy officer, I have an interest in defence matters. In Cornwall, we are very proud of Spaceport Cornwall. Does my right hon. Friend see it having a role to play as part of the defence space strategy? (905617)

I do apologise. I am even more pleased that my hon. Friend’s daughter graces the Royal Navy. She will know of the increasing importance of space to all the armed forces, and I can assure her that we are actively looking at supporting the wider Government ambition to have private companies launch from the UK this year.

T4. Further to the question from the hon. Member for Bracknell (James Sunderland) on the Government’s response on the immigration cost for armed forces personnel, it is good to hear that the consultation response will be published, but will the Minister confirm that he is working to lower the proposed 12-year threshold so that the foreign and Commonwealth community can actually benefit? (905612)

My constituent’s father is a former Afghan army officer who is in hiding. He was not able to get here under the ARAP—Afghan relocations and assistance policy—scheme. May I ask a defence Minister to discuss this further?

I am happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss this particular case. However, he and colleagues from around the House will appreciate, although I know this is a disappointment to many, that ARAP was never a mechanism for rank and file members of the Afghan national army to come to the UK.

T8. The UK is now the only atomic nation with no official recognition of or compensation for nuclear test veterans and their families. Ahead of the 70th anniversary of the first British nuclear test later this year, will Ministers now do the right thing and give these veterans the recognition they deserve? (905618)

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says and I absolutely recognise that we are now the only country in this regard. The last internal review was in December, and I have asked officials to go back and look at that again.

My right hon. Friend said that the amount we spend on defence depends on the threats that we face. May I remind him that we cannot just conjure up battalions? May I also, like two Members from the Opposition Benches, please ask him to reverse this disastrous decision to reduce our Army by 10,000?

My hon. Friend has often campaigned on the size of the Army. First and foremost, we have to recognise that modernisation is an important aspect of making sure that our armed forces are fit to fight. There is simply no point in having mass in a hollow armed forces. For too long, we had that out of step: either we had lots of people and inadequate equipment, or we had expensive equipment and not enough people. This defence Command Paper put that in balance, which means that it can deliver what it says on the tin and it does not let those people down.

May I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the tribute paid to our dear friend and colleague Christopher Stalford, who we shall all miss terribly? On a lighter note, may I ask the Secretary of State whether he would join me at the Northern Ireland airshow in my constituency, where all the armed services put on a magnificent display each year, in trying to attract young people to a very rewarding career in the armed services?

With the armed forces parliamentary scheme, I have spent some time with the Commando littoral response force in the high Arctic, joining in their preparations for the forthcoming exercise “Cold Response”, which will involve 35,000 troops from 28 nations. Does my right hon. Friend agree that not only is that a show of NATO strength and unity, but the Royal Marine Commandos have shown themselves to be a valuable commodity, with skills in mountain, Arctic and amphibious warfare?

First, I am grateful to my hon. Friend and to all colleagues who are part of the AFPS, which is a fantastic thing.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that our involvement in that exercise is a demonstration of both how the Royal Marines are transforming and our commitment to NATO. It also shows the integrated review coming to life, because the littoral response groups in the High North and in the western Indian ocean are two of the key new innovations of that paper.

The Ministry of Defence leases 37,500 homes from Annington Homes, of which 7,230 are vacant, while 12,000 Afghan refugees have been in bridging hotels for more than six months. This just cannot be right, so what is the Minister going to do about it?

We have made 550 service family accommodation units available. All questions on this issue should be directed at local authorities, but we are doing everything we can to ensure that Afghan families are settled in the way they deserve.

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting Watford’s ex-servicemen’s club, where I met the fantastic staff during an evening of darts. While I was there, I met the founder of the Official Minds at War charity, Norman Mcguigan, who works closely with local resident Liz Burns and many great volunteers throughout the country to provide mental health support for veterans. Good jobs help to deliver good mental health; what is being done to ensure that service personnel can take up jobs in our thriving defence industry?

We are fighting over the privilege of answering my hon. Friend’s question. As my the Minister for Defence People and Veterans, my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Leo Docherty) said earlier, there are 21,000 apprentices in the armed forces at any one time. Also, we are committed to lifelong learning: for five years after people leave the services, they can apply for and get support to retrain. It is a great opportunity for our service personnel, who have terrific skills.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the same esteem, respect and co-operation that the UK enjoys with Australia will be a feature of UK-Scottish relations on matters related to defence and security after independence? Crucially, though, as an independent state Scotland will, unlike today, have a seat at the table and a role in the decision-making process.

This year, the SNP is in favour of NATO membership, but who knows where it will be at the end of it? If SNP Members want to be part of NATO, they will have to spend 2% of GDP. Given that they will be almost bankrupt, I doubt they will be able to spend anything.

Support for defence jobs is important, but so is support for veterans. Does the Minister agree that the armed forces charity SSAFA—the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association—which does a particularly excellent job on Anglesey, plays a vital role in the support of veterans?

I do agree that SSAFA does an absolutely magnificent job, as I have seen at first hand in Aldershot. I put on the record my thanks for everything that my hon. Friend does for veterans in her constituency.

As we have already heard, the nuclear test veterans are a group of elderly individuals and, sadly, many of them have already passed away. It is in the Secretary of State’s power to award medals at this point. Will he do so?

Last year, the Royal Air Force took part in Exercise Blue Flag in Israel. What lessons did the Royal Air Force learn from working with the Israeli air force?

I cannot say right now, but I can say that it is about readiness: we must be ready because we never know where the threat comes from.

Will the Secretary of State promise me that he will listen to the Reith lectures—especially the bits about artificial intelligence and robotic warfare—and then think about our defence plans?

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Sarah Atherton), I very much welcome the fact that the MOD is taking the Arctic and the threat from Russia along its 20,000-mile border in the Arctic very seriously indeed, as is NATO. It has long been promised that the MOD will produce a policy paper; when is it due to be printed, published or produced?

It will be produced in March, when hopefully I will visit Cold Response. When I came into office, I discovered that it was one of those classic Government strategies that had absolutely nothing in it other than a nice bit of narrative. I said I would not launch it until it contained some solid offers and deliverables, I paused it and we rewrote it, and it will be launched.

What discussions has the Secretary of State had with allies about the numbers of people who might seek refugee protection in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine? How is he going to go about ensuring that there is an appropriate and co-ordinated humanitarian response?

That is an important and perhaps very likely consequence of what may happen in Ukraine. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the Ministry of Defence would not necessarily lead on such a response, but obviously we stand by to support other Government Departments in their doing so.


With permission, Mr Speaker, I will update the House on the latest situation regarding Russia’s actions towards Ukraine. As I have already said, I apologise that the Opposition had such late sight of the statement.

As of 09.00 hours today, there are now more than 110 battalion tactical groups massed around Ukraine’s borders with Russia and Belarus. In addition, in the Black Sea Fleet, there are two amphibious groups, nine cruise missile-equipped Russian ships and a further four cruise missile-capable vessels in the Caspian sea.

In the last 48 hours, contrary to Kremlin assurances, we have seen a continued increase in troop numbers and a change in force disposition, moving from holding areas to potential launch locations. All the indicators point to increasing numbers and readiness of Russian forces, and, not surprisingly to many of us, the pledge to withdraw Russian troops from Belarus at the end of their joint military drills on 20 February was not carried out, and the exercise has now been extended until further notice.

Complementing this troop build-up has been the proliferation of false flag operations, propaganda stunts, and Russian news outlets carrying fictitious allegations. These are not the actions of a Russian Government fulfilling their repeated declarations that they have no intention of invading Ukraine. In fact, over the last few weeks, we have seen the Russian “playbook” being implemented in a way that gives us strong cause for concern that President Putin is still committed to an invasion. I believe that he is in danger of setting himself on a tragic course of events, leading to a humanitarian crisis, instability, and widespread suffering—not just of Ukrainians, but of the Russian people.

Like many of us, the Russians know the consequences of military interventions. The Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the first war in Chechnya are just two examples of where Russia saw too many young men returning home in zinc-lined coffins. The Government therefore urge President Putin—for the sake of his own people and even at this eleventh hour—to rule out the invasion of Ukraine and recommit to a diplomatic process for us to address the perceptions of the Kremlin.

Over recent weeks, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have engaged numerous times with our international counterparts, including my own visit to Moscow to meet Defence Minister Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov. We have made clear our determination to uphold the defensive principles of NATO and to defend the right of sovereign countries to make choices about their own security arrangements. As the Russian Government have signed up to, states have

“an equal right to security. We reaffirm the inherent right of each and every participating state to be free to choose or change its security arrangements, including treaties of alliance.”

That statement was signed by the Russians in 1975 in the Helsinki Final Act, in 1994 in the Budapest summit declaration, in 1999 at the Istanbul summit, and, most lately, in 2010 at the Astana summit. We urge Russia to stick to its commitments that it has openly made and signed up to over the years. My counterpart, Defence Minister Shoigu, repeated to me in person that Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine, but, while we take them at their word, we must judge them by their actions.

At our meeting I also took the opportunity to address the proposals in Russia’s draft treaty, because, while this is not a return to normal UK-Russia relations, it is important that, as one of Europe’s biggest military powers, the UK maintains strong lines of communications with Russia in order to avoid miscalculation and the risk of inadvertent escalations. I also continue to speak regularly to my Ukrainian counterpart, Defence Minister Reznikov, as we continue to support the armed forces of Ukraine.

Since 2015, the UK—alongside the likes of Sweden and Canada—has responded to Russia’s previous illegal occupation of Crimea with defence capacity building, including training and reform. As I announced to the House last month, we took the decision to also provide lethal aid to Ukraine. That now means that, alongside the United States, Canada, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Netherlands, the United Kingdom has not just spoken, but acted.

I am pleased with the efforts being made by a range of European leaders, including President Macron, to find a way through. We must remain resolute in our commitment to NATO’s formal response to the Russian draft treaties, which all NATO members signed up to. Intimidation and aggression, however, must not be rewarded.

We should be under no illusion: the Russian forces have now massed on Ukraine’s borders 65% of all their land combat power. The formations present and the action of the Russian state to date not only threaten the integrity of a sovereign state, but undermine international law and the democratic values in which all of us in Europe so strongly believe.

The Foreign Office has now relocated the embassy further west in the country, and two weeks ago advised that all UK nationals should leave Ukraine via all means possible. The Ministry of Defence will continue to monitor Russian actions, support Ukrainian defensive efforts and contribute to NATO’s response measures. We continue to hope that President Putin will relent and pull back from an invasion, but we must prepare ourselves for the consequences if he does not. I will update the House, as I have done over the past few weeks, both in the Chamber and to colleagues online.

The Defence Secretary has been busy in recent weeks, so I welcome his statement today and thank him for keeping the Opposition parties updated on Ukraine during these grave escalations of Russian military threats on the Ukrainian border.

This is the most serious security crisis Europe has faced since the cold war. The Ukrainian people, citizens of a proud, independent and democratic country, face an unprecedented threat from, as the Secretary of State has said, two thirds of Russia’s entire forces now built up on its borders. There is unified UK political support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity in the face of that continuing Russian aggression.

The Government also have Labour’s full support in helping Ukraine to defend itself and in pursuing diplomacy, even at this eleventh hour and even though President Putin has proved more interested in disinformation than diplomacy. We also fully support moves to reinforce the security of NATO allies, as the Labour leader and I told the Secretary General at NATO headquarters earlier this month.

President Putin wants to divide and weaken the west, to turn back the clock and re-establish Russian control over neighbouring countries. The real threat to President Putin and his Russian elites is Ukraine as a successful democracy, choosing for itself its trading and security links with the west. An attack on Ukraine is an attack on democracy.

We welcome the message from Munich at the weekend that any invasion will be met with massive sanctions in a swift, unified western response. The European Union, of course, will lead on sanctions legislation for most European allies, especially to clamp down on finances or critical technologies for Russia. How is the UK co-ordinating with the European Commission and European Council? What meetings have UK Ministers had to discuss that co-ordination?

The other message from Munich at the weekend was that allies stand ready for further talks. The Defence Secretary has said this afternoon:

“I am pleased with the efforts being made by a range of European leaders, including President Macron”.

What diplomatic initiatives is our UK Prime Minister taking, befitting Britain as a leading member of the NATO alliance and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council? With the most serious tensions and developments in the Donbas, why did the UK Government remove UK staff from the OSCE monitoring mission there, when those from all other European countries have stayed to do a job that is more vital now than ever?

The Defence Secretary said, rightly, that we continue to “support Ukrainian defensive efforts”, including with lethal aid. What more will he now do, with NATO, to help Ukraine defend itself? Can he speed up action via the Ukraine naval agreement? How feasible is a no-fly zone? What consideration will he give to support for Ukrainian resistance?

We cannot stand up to Russian aggression abroad while accepting Russian corruption at home. For too long, Britain has been the destination for the dirty money that keeps Putin in power. Where is the economic crime Bill, which was promised by the Government and then pulled? Where is the comprehensive reform of Companies House? Where is the law to register foreign agents? Where is the registration of overseas entities Bill? Where is the replacement for the outdated Computer Misuse Act 1990? Where are the new rules on political donations? Why does the Government’s Elections Bill make these problems worse by enabling political donations from donors based overseas?

Whether or not President Putin invades Ukraine, Russia’s long-running pattern of aggression demands a NATO response. Will the Secretary of State report from his meeting last week with NATO Defence Ministers on how the alliance’s overall posture is set to change? Will he explain what action could be taken to better co-ordinate NATO with the joint expeditionary force—for instance, creating a regional readiness force?

Finally, does not Ukraine expose the flaws in the Government’s integrated review of last year, with its first focus on the Indo-Pacific and its plan to cut the British Army by another 10,000 soldiers? Will the Secretary of State now halt any further Army cuts, and restore the highest defence priority to Europe, the north Atlantic and the Arctic?

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s support. He will know that throughout this process the Government have been grateful for efforts to be united across this House. That has been one of the strongest messages we can send to Russia, as is our being united across NATO and the EU, to make sure that this behaviour is seen as unacceptable.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about sanctions. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been in conversation more than weekly with the EU on co-ordinating sanctions to make sure that the EU Commission, which is the EU’s lead on sanctions, the United States and the United Kingdom are as closely as possible in lockstep. The EU has taken the position that it will prepare and deliver the sanctions, should an invasion happen, at that moment. The United States and the United Kingdom have laid out—we have put this before this House—the sanctions that they would put in place. That is a difference of approach. However, we know from our own experience that the EU can move very quickly at a Commission level when it wishes to do so. There is no lack of appetite in the EU to deal with President Putin through sanctions should he make the tragic error of invading Ukraine. No one should play into the differences of timing to suggest that; it is simply a different mechanism of approach. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is also working through a group called the Quint plus plus—that is, the US, the UK, Italy, France and Germany, plus NATO and the EU. They are all working together on these types of responses and are regularly having discussions.

I will write to the right hon. Gentleman on the OSCE, but I know that one individual has been in touch. He is a UK citizen. When the Foreign Office advice was issued, there were certain pieces of advice to citizens of our country. If someone find themselves in any organisation, we give our advice to them. Other members of the OSCE have left—not all of them—but I will get him the full detail on that as well.

As regards the bigger questions on issues such as aid, Ukrainian resistance and further support, the right hon. Gentleman will know that this has been best pursued on a bilateral basis between countries or groupings of countries such as through lethal aid. Much has been made of the fact that countries such as Germany and France have not provided lethal aid to Ukraine. I simply reflect, as I did at NATO last week, that the strength of an alliance of 30 is that we can all play to our strengths. It is important that we recognise that not every country, in its political system or political leadership, is going to have the same view, but in an alliance of 30 we can play to our strengths and deliver to Ukraine what it needs. We have seen, for example, an increase in aid to Ukraine from the likes of Germany, as well as medical supplies, while in other countries such as the United Kingdom and the Baltic states, lethal aid plays a part. That is really important. In order to keep going together at the same speed, we recognise that if we are going to tackle Russia, we have to be able to play to those strengths. The EU has a strong role to play in helping the resilience of neighbouring countries such as through migrant flows in Belarus. If 1 million refugees appear in Hungary, Romania or Poland, I would urge the EU to step up and think about what it is going to do about millions of refugees on its soil rather than think about it afterwards. That is where the EU Commission can play a strong role in resilience-building.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the integrated review, but I think the situation is actually the opposite of what he said: if we read the full integrated review and the defence Command Paper, they show that we have to be ready. They show that Russia and adversaries like Russia do not go in with a big bang and just arrive in a big invasion; they soften up their targets using sub-threshold methods, cyber, corruption, organised crime and so on, and they turn up incrementally. Many of the forces we now see massed on Ukraine’s border were in fact pre-positioned in April following an exercise and then went home to barracks. That allowed them to be ready and to deploy in days, while NATO’s traditional model has been that it has taken us weeks and months to deploy.

That is why, in our defence Command Paper, we put a premium on speed and readiness. That premium may sometimes mean less mass, but that is why we have an alliance to pick up on that; we have an alliance of 30 countries, and we way outspend Russia collectively as a group of nations, and indeed on capabilities. It is also why I am now able to offer our NATO leaders true forces—forces that will actually turn up on the day, rather than what we had even in my day, when I was serving in West Germany or north Germany, which was fictional numbers, which meant that that when we pressed the button, instead of a division, we got a brigade. That is far more important in showing strength to the Russians and showing that we mean what we say and that we can deliver on it.

I was Security Minister when I introduced the Criminal Finances Act 2017. There was no greater champion of taking down dirty money in the City than me. I brought in the unexplained wealth orders. I brought in the mobile stores of wealth when people got round the provisions. I helped to set up the economic crime unit in the National Crime Agency. I ensured that we changed the law on tax evasion so that we got more people. I also pushed incredibly hard and successfully through the G7 for the transparent register of beneficial ownership.

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that we need to do more. I absolutely supported at the time, and still do, a register of foreign agents. He is also totally right on areas such as Companies House. The whole Government are now looking at these issues and are committed to doing something about them, and I expect an announcement soon on a range of them. He is right that the consequences of Russia’s actions, going way back to Salisbury and before, are that we must stop the oligarchs resident in this country, with their dirty money, behaving as if this was a place of refuge, when they should not be welcome. If it comes to an invasion of Ukraine, Russia should know what it costs to be isolated.

May I commend my right hon. Friend and the Government for the robust stance they have taken alongside our American and European allies in the face of Russia’s threats against Ukraine? President Putin wants to weaken NATO and the western alliance, but does my right hon. Friend agree that any further action by the Russians to invade Ukrainian territory can only strengthen the determination of the UK, NATO and the western alliance to defend the rights of sovereign states and to defend democracy?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. When I was her Security Minister, it was her support that allowed us sometimes to overrule the Treasury and to get some of that legislation through to deal with criminal finances. She is absolutely right. In 2014, after the invasion of Crimea, President Putin got exactly the opposite of what he wanted: more forces in the east of Europe and more defence spending across NATO. If he continues down this line, I suspect he will continue to get more forces on his border and greater defence spending across NATO—the very opposite of what he intends. I hope he learns the lesson of 2014. At the moment, it is not looking good.

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of the statement and for the updates he has given Opposition parties over the previous weeks. I underline the fact that we on the SNP Benches are friends of Ukraine and supporters of international law, and we support absolutely Ukraine’s right and ability to organise its security affairs as it sees fit. However, as can be seen from the Russian security council meeting that has been happening as we have sat in the Chamber this afternoon, we have reached a dangerous moment.

The Secretary of State mentioned the new sanctions package announced by the Government just before the recess, which stated that it would give the Government the ability to sanction entities and individuals of economic and strategic interest to Russia, but only if there is a further escalation. Well, that escalation has started, as could be seen by anyone following events in the Donbas region yesterday, on Saturday and on Friday. Is it not now time to start sanctioning individuals and entities of strategic interest, including those in this country? Furthermore, given the importance of disinformation and the entire architecture that the Russian Government have to spread disinformation about the conflict they are perpetrating against Ukraine, should that not start with some of the disinformation rackets here—the likes of RT, Sputnik and others?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and the leader of the Alba party may like to reflect on his celebrity status on some of those channels.

The Government already have some considerable powers, and Magnitsky sanctions have been used against a number of Russian individuals after Salisbury. In fact, some of the people I met in the Russian Ministry of Defence were sanctioned under such measures. We continue to deliver on that.

More widely, the whole of Government will produce a response for this House in due course. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point about using sanctions now rather than waiting for something to happen. The key point here is that we must be in a position to threaten to deliver sanctions against Russia if it does something. Were we to unilaterally deliver them now, but America and the European Union did not, there is a danger that would play into President Putin’s attempted divide and rule narrative.

There are plenty of measures that we could take, and we are planning a serious set of sanctions. The question to President Putin is: “Do you actually care what is going to happen to your people, because it will be they who suffer the most as a result of the sanctions?” It will be interesting, as a responsible leader, whether he will listen to that.

I welcome this statement. The penny was dropping at the Munich security conference that this is about not just Ukraine, but a wider realignment of global power with the formation of a new Russia-China alliance that is fuelling Putin’s adventurism and, indeed, perhaps taking us towards another cold war. The money laundering issues aside, which absolutely must be addressed, I ask the Secretary of State to consider the sanctions. There is a concern that we are actually helping Putin with his intention of turning Russia away from the west and towards a new alliance with China in the long term.

If Russia wants to be dependent on China, I think it will recognise that that will be the wrong decision. China and Russia are in direct competition over the high north and the route through the Arctic, and Russia will surely not want to depend entirely on China, in the same way that many European states are regretting being entirely dependent on Russian gas. It is important, however, that we impose a range of sanctions that are directed not only at the Russian Government, but at some of Russia’s bankers and those who help the regime carry on as normal.

I fully support what the Defence Secretary said and the shadow Secretary of State’s response. However, as the architect of unexplained wealth orders, the Defence Secretary must share the widespread frustration that not a single one has been issued under the current Prime Minister—not a single Russian given a golden visa has been named. Why does the Defence Secretary think that we have been so slow at tackling dirty Russian money in London?

Unexplained wealth orders are not a matter for politicians; they are for economic crime investigators and the National Crime Agency. I can no more direct an unexplained wealth order than the right hon. Gentleman can. However, when I was Security Minister I was the victim of a Russian fraud that tried to suggest that I had a conversation with and tried to direct the Russian Prosecutor General.

I am disappointed that there have not been as many unexplained wealth orders as I had hoped, but the legislation was taken through and they represent a powerful model. They have been used against some pretty unsavoury people—I am delighted with that—but the right hon. Gentleman is right that not enough have been used. We are quite unique in having them—not many other countries do—and we should use them more, but we should understand why the NCA has not delivered as many as we would have hoped.

There are other tools to be considered. I welcome the long-term commitment on beneficial ownership, and I think we will soon see the Companies House legislation. I remember being horrified to discover that a sanctioned individual could start a company because, in those days, I do not think that there was even an identity check. That has to stop. There has been some tightening up, but it will take legislation, and I hope the whole House will support it.

I commend my right hon. Friend’s calm and straightforward posture during the course of this, and I think he has done incredibly well. However, I say to him that, in all of our debates and even on TV, we behave as though Russia is threatening to invade Ukraine. Russia has already invaded Ukraine: it took Crimea, and right now it is furnishing the Donbas region with munitions to create even further trouble. When we look at it like this, what worries me slightly is that, with lots of foreign leaders going over to see Mr Putin, which is what he wants, we may just get a position where there is a little scintilla of a question of saying, “Well, maybe—maybe—we won’t let Ukraine into NATO, if it wanted to come in, and maybe we will make it clear that is not something it could get.” Can I get an absolute assurance from my right hon. Friend that the UK Government believe that if the democratically elected Government of Ukraine wish to do anything and ask to do it, they will be entertained no worse than any other country would be?

My right hon. Friend makes a powerful point, and we should be true to our values. The Prime Minister was very clear at Munich that the point my right hon. Friend raises is absolutely the case. It is also the case that the NATO response to Russia—all 30 members—was very clear on that. We shall hold each other to that commitment, and I think it is absolutely right that now is the time to stand up and say, “These are our values and they are not up for compromise. We are not going to give a single inch and, fundamentally, we are not going to reward a bully.”

The Secretary of State said a moment ago, about sanctions on Russia, “if it does something”. May I just press him on this point? We do not yet know for sure whether a full invasion will take place, but can he tell the House what the Government’s response would be if the action taken by Russia took the form of, say, a no-fly zone over Ukraine, blockading its ports, or repeated and significant cyber-attacks on Ukrainian institutions and Governments? In such circumstances, would the Government respond with the full sanctions that they have obviously been discussing?

I am grateful to the right hon. Member. First, let me make it clear that, as he knows, lots of sanctions are already in place, so these are additional sanctions on top of the raft of sanctions that the Government brought in after the illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea and, indeed, of Donbas. I think he is absolutely right that many of these aggressive moves, such as a no-fly zone—in other words, threatening the integrity of that sovereign state—or a blockade to free trade would absolutely warrant a response ranging from sanctions to other actions. I think we would look at that at the time, but I absolutely agree that Russia should be under no illusion that threatening the integrity of a sovereign nation in the air or at sea is exactly the same as threatening it on land.

Following the first invasion of 2014, and in order to get around sanctions, Russia has had extensive import substitution and investment in European companies in critical infrastructure and energy—a policy of tolerance, if not appeasement, by European Governments. Can I say to my right hon. Friend, who I think has been an exemplary Defence Secretary through this crisis, that sanctions alone will not protect Ukraine from a subsequent Russian invasion? We need either substantial improvements in its defence capabilities or a security guarantee, or both. President Putin believes that Ukrainians and Russians are one people—there is no lack of clarity there—and, ultimately, he can be deterred only by the threatened use of force.

The Government have taken the position, as has NATO, that this is about deterrence and diplomacy, and deterrence does involve upholding the shoring up of NATO members with resilience and containment measures to make sure that Russia is contained should it make the foolish mistake of an invasion of Ukraine. That is done by our forces, and it is why we have made even more available, including 1,000 members of the Army currently on stand-by in the UK to send elsewhere. My right hon. Friend is right that the heart of this is about defending Ukraine’s right to choose—not what it does with that right, but, fundamentally, that if a democratic nation has chosen something, we should respect that. We are on the cusp of an invasion of a democratic country in Europe, and that should worry us all.

I thank the Secretary of State for supplying an advance copy of the statement. We should be clear: if Russia invades Ukraine, massive sanctions will rightly be placed on Russia, and if that happens, we can expect a salvo of cyber-attacks on the United Kingdom. I seek two reassurances from the Secretary of State: that we have the best possible defences against cyber-attacks; and that what is good for the goose is good for the gander, and that if necessary we could use cyber-warfare to give as good as we get back to Russia.

The Defence Command Paper published last year set out plans to establish, and grow to a significant size, the National Cyber Force, the UK’s offensive cyber-capability that will complement our defensive capability. That is a joint GCHQ and Defence agency that will be based in north-west England. It has already been established and is starting to grow. I cannot comment on the operations that it will undertake, but I am a soldier and I was always taught that the best part of defence is offence.

What will the Government do to try to impress on President Putin that even if he invades the rest of Ukraine without military comeback on behalf of Ukraine, it would be a fatal error for him to think that he could then invade an outlying NATO state—one of the Baltic states, for example—without an attack on one rightly being considered to be an attack on all NATO members?

President Putin’s publicly stated view is that by potentially dealing with Ukraine, or preventing Ukraine from joining NATO, he is in fact saving us all from a future war; he wrongly asserts that if Ukraine joined NATO, Ukraine would then attack Crimea and Donbas, and that would trigger a NATO response. My right hon. Friend is an expert on NATO and knows that is a fantasy scenario, but it could potentially be used as a justification. It is therefore important that we demonstrate that although Ukraine is not in NATO, we can do our best to protect its right to choose; and it is also important that we make it crystal clear to the President of Russia that if he tries this with NATO partners, no matter how big or small, article 5 is a reality.

I am particularly fearful of the possibility of an outbreak of war in Europe. I was born not far from here during the worst blitz of the war with Nazi Germany, and every time I think about war, I remember my family—my father was away at the war—and the bombs raining down, killing our neighbours, so no one can give me lectures on this. We must firmly show these despots and dictators that we mean business in every sense. Will the Secretary of State join me in sending that message to Putin?

I have been very consistent on this. Like the hon. Gentleman, a number of colleagues on the Government Front Bench, and indeed some on the hon. Gentleman’s side of the House, were born in a second world war environment, or have seen either people at the wrong end of a terrorist attack or death and destruction. No one comes here glowing with warmongering in their heart; they come here to do their very best to avoid it. However, freedom comes at a cost—freedom is not free, as the South Koreans know and put on their war memorials. We have to stand up to this. We did not stand up in 2014 as an international community; we did not stand up as an international community enough. We did send a very successful and strong message after the Salisbury poisoning—153 intelligence officers were expelled—but if Putin is successful in this, the ripples will not end; they will go through us all, and we will all regret it in the long run. Sometimes we must take a stand, and now is the time.

I understand that the Duma has passed a resolution saying that Donbas and the Crimea should be incorporated into Russia. That in some way would give Putin’s plans some sort of legality, if he were to think of invading. If Putin was to replace the so-called little green men in Donbas with regular Russian soldiers, could we expect NATO and the west to respond with just as much severity, in terms of sanctions, as if he had invaded the remainder of Ukraine?

We have already put a raft of sanctions in place. Russian regulars have come and gone in Donbas, and they are already based in Crimea, which they take as their own, in significant numbers.

The Duma’s latest resolution about Donbas is worrying. The resolution is about a sovereign state over which the Duma has no legal authority, and we should not recognise it. The Prime Minister has been clear that an incursion one inch over the border—whether that is one boot, one tank or one vehicle—will lead to the sanctions. We would not accept that as being anything other than an invasion; it would not be an interversion or an incursion. We will stick to that line.

At this incredibly dangerous time, I notice that the Defence Secretary did not say much about the Minsk agreement. Does he think that is a way by which we can get back to talks? If the Russians pulled back, would he be prepared to countenance any reduction in the NATO presence on the border, to bring about longer-term, secure peace in the region?

The right hon. Gentleman raises a point about Minsk. I was clear in my press conference in Moscow and elsewhere that both Russia and Ukraine signed Minsk. As he will know, and as we have found with the Good Friday agreement, treaties are one thing, but the big challenge is in rolling up our sleeves and delivering the sequences in the right way. We all remember that from decommissioning in Northern Ireland, which was easy to write into the Good Friday agreement but hard to deliver, and it is the same for the Minsk agreement. However, we all recognise that the Minsk agreement is one of the ways out, and we should do our best to support its implementation.

On the right hon. Gentleman’s point about pulling back NATO, we did not put 165,000 combat troops on the edge of a sovereign country and hold a gun to the head of a democratically elected Government; Russia did. We have nothing to de-escalate from; Russia does. I hope that he will condemn the Stop the War Coalition, which always seems to paint us as the aggressor. Perhaps he would like to ask the people of Ukraine who they think the aggressor is.

Has increased military action been detected in other Russian-controlled areas, such as Transnistria, as well as in Crimea and Kaliningrad? What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the possible threat—if not now, then in the future—against other former Soviet states that are outside of NATO, such as Moldova?

Russia’s malign activity—we have packaged it up and called it that—has been a long-running challenge that we have seen in the likes of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In all of this, we should not forget that Bosnia and Herzegovina is in a fragile position, because it is in an impoverished state, the minorities are already starting to agitate, and Russia’s influence on some of the separatists could send us all back to the early ’90s. Russia’s malign activity does no good. It challenges not only our European values, but the wealth of those states, seemingly for no reason other than to weaken people who think differently.

I fear that things have moved on yet further today. Mr Medvedev has said two disturbing things: that it would be perfectly possible to recognise the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk; and that there might be sanctions, but Russia could wear them, because, after the 2014 invasion of Crimea and the military action in Georgia, it wore whatever the west threw at it. Will the Secretary of State confirm that only a third of those areas are presently held by separatists, and that recognising, or trying to enforce, some independence in those areas would therefore mean a significant invasion of Ukrainian territory, including areas not held by separatists at all? Will he also confirm that Ukrainians are, if anything, more determined than ever to face towards the west, precisely because of what President Putin has done over these years, and that if there is an invasion of any kind—any troops, as he said—the reaction will have to be a damn sight harder than it was in 2014?

The hon. Gentleman is right on his last point; the reaction absolutely has to be harder, and unified; and we need to stick to it. Often, the calculation in Russia is that we will all get bored, and that six months later, everything will go back to normal. Minister Shoigu said to my face that sanctions cannot harm the Russians; they will just go elsewhere, and are resilient. Unfortunately, that is the view of some of the leadership in the Russian Government. I doubt it is the view of the Russian people, who have to suffer the consequences.

We should also recognise the consequence for the wider world of this invasion. Yemen gets about 20% of its food from Ukrainian grain; for Libya, the figure is 44%. What would happen to those countries if there were rising food prices? A shortage of food is a horrible consequence that we must do everything to avoid. This is a global problem. Ukraine matters. Our strength of resolve matters, because, as the hon. Gentleman and I know, there are other, bigger countries looking at how much resolve we have to stand by our values.

I thank the Government and civil society organisations for all they are doing to expose false flag and disinformation efforts from the Kremlin. Putin has just finished his extraordinary meeting of Russia’s national security council, at which, again, overwhelming support has been given for recognising the independence of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics. Before Putin announces his plans tonight, will my right hon. Friend please call that out for what it is: a dangerous precursor to the illegal annexation of those lands? Will he also confirm that, despite our focus on preventing further invasion, we do not tacitly accept that those territories that are currently illegally held are Russian?

We all accept that the 2014 invasion of Donbas and Crimea was an invasion of sovereign territory. Nothing changes that. All our NATO allies agree on that entirely, and have recognised not one inch of those lands. China, by the way, has still not recognised Donbas; that is an important message to President Putin. For all our issues with China, I do not think that it wants an economic schism at the heart of Europe at this moment. Hopefully, that is something President Putin will rely on. All these plans—the annexation of part of Ukraine, the false flags of people having to be evacuated, Ukrainian “attacks”—are false. They are all designed to be excuses, or to cause friction. The worrying thing is that we can all see it. One does not have to be an expert in Europe to spot what is going on. The worry for us is that President Putin thinks that it does not matter, or thinks that he can get away with it.

First, I commend the Defence Secretary for his actions over the last few months. He mentioned the Russian playbook. Part of it is about portraying a false narrative around the sovereignty of Ukraine. Is he confident enough that we in the west have the ability to push back against the false narratives, particularly on social media, that seem to infect the debate?

We certainly have the capability, and we do everything we can, both internationally and unilaterally, to ensure that messages get across not only to our audiences but, importantly, to the Ukrainian and indeed Russian audience. We could start closer to home: we could ask the leader of Alba, on his next Russia Today programme, to do an in-depth analysis of some of those false claims and broadcast it. I am sure he is open to the highest bidder, and so will be very happy to do that. It is important to recognise that in this era, information is as powerful as any tank. We have to ensure that the ordinary people of Russia and Ukraine are not denied a free and fair press, and can get across the message of what is going on in their country in their name.

Under these circumstances, what obligations under the Budapest memorandum do Her Majesty’s Government accept?

The Budapest memorandum, as my hon. Friend will know, was an agreement that Ukraine would disarm its nuclear weapons in exchange for Russia’s recognition of its sovereignty. I am not an international lawyer, but I would guess that if Russia breached that—one could argue that it already has, with its invasion—the memorandum would become pretty much null and void. We are one of the guarantors of that memorandum, which is why we are doing so much now to hold Russia to account. As I said in questions and in the statement, let us not forget that in 2010 at the Astana summit, Russia, including Prime Minister or President Medvedev—whichever role he was filling—signed up, alongside the international community, to recognising that every participating state is free to choose or change its security arrangements, including treaties and alliances. That is what Russia signed up to then. Never mind the conspiracy theory that somebody somewhere said that NATO would never expand. We have never seen any proof of that; we have never seen any such document. What we have seen is at least four statements and treaties signed by Russia over many years that say it respects the sovereignty of countries to choose. We hold it to that.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on the leading role that he has played in rallying the opposition to Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine. We know that many European nations find the situation difficult, because they have allowed themselves to be subject to energy blackmail through their zero carbon policy. However, Russian aggression against Ukraine threatens the strategic supply of food around the world, because Ukraine is the third biggest exporter of grain, at 100 million tonnes a year, so what assessment has he made of the areas of the world that are most likely to be affected if aggression should lead to that food not being available? Does he not agree that that underlines the strategic importance of Ukraine and the importance of giving it every bit of support to allow it to defend its independence, democracy and vital economic role?

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: this is not just about gas. We have focused on gas because, predominantly, that is what preoccupies us in our comfy part of Europe, but in many countries across the world, it is about food and other costs of living crises, some of which are far more pressing than whether we can afford the potential increase of gas. It is very important that we do not forget that there will be implications right across the world—certainly the western world—if we do not deal with this situation and deter Russia. In Munich, the Prime Minister was absolutely clear with everyone, including the President of Ukraine, that we would stand by Ukraine and that we must be resolved together, both as Europe and as NATO. We must not salami-slice ourselves away on different thoughts. I know that when the Prime Minister speaks to his European counterparts he is very much focused on this sense of unanimous and strong alliance, challenging the assertions, because if we do not deter today, we will all pay for it tomorrow.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the work that he and the Prime Minister have done. Having visited Georgia and seen for myself what Russian incursions look like, I ask the Secretary of State: if Ukraine is invaded, will Georgia be admitted to NATO?

Again, it is for Georgia and its relationship with NATO and for NATO collectively to recognise its decision on whether it accedes. Fundamentally—the Prime Minister has been clear about this, as my hon. Friend knows—that this is about maintaining the open-door policy of sovereign states. I said to the Russians very clearly that NATO does not go around choosing people. People choose NATO. They choose our values and that is how it is done. There is no secret plot to go around undermining or dividing Russia, and the question for President Putin should be: why is it that all those countries wanted to join NATO in the first place? It was not to collect a badge, but because they felt under threat by a nation that did not want to respect their sovereignty, their democracy and their freedom.

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. The situation is clearly very grave, but he obviously has a pretty clear view of the situation on the ground. The wife of my constituent is stuck in Ukraine near the Russian border. She cannot complete a medical assessment or enrol her biometrics to complete a spousal visa, and because he is not in Ukraine, they cannot use the family migration route. What pressure can the Secretary of State bring to bear on the Home Office to ensure that if the situation escalates, as seems inevitable, our military are not left to evacuate citizens and families?

If the hon. and learned Member sends me the details, I will be very happy to take that up and look at it for her.

I commend the Secretary of State and the Minister for the Armed Forces for the fantastic job that they are doing in very difficult circumstances. If Russia does invade, NATO countries, particularly the smaller ones and particularly the Baltic countries, will need our reassurance. Does the Secretary of State foresee further deployments of British troops to those countries? If so, would it not be hugely reassuring to him if he had 10,000 more troops in his back pocket?

We are hosting the 10 nations of the joint expeditionary force, which includes the Nordic states plus Iceland and Holland, tonight and tomorrow at a summit. I have invited colleagues across the House, including Members on the Labour Front Bench and in the Scottish National party and the Liberal Democrats, because it is important that we recognise those countries’ importance to us as our allies. They are the ones on that frontline. My hon. Friend is right that they will be the ones most worried; some of them are territories that President Putin and his like have often felt are not territories. As I have said before, we should look at President Putin’s essay from July last year. That is one of the consequences, I fear, of President Putin being successful in Ukraine. Where will the ripples land next? We will need forces for that. We have been managing to double that up into a brigade. The enhanced forward presence is currently four multinational battlegroups; I suspect that it will grow. We will be open to more suggestions.

We should be moving against Russian dirty money in the City of London, regardless of what happens in Ukraine. I do not doubt the determination to deal with it that the Secretary of State has expressed today, but the lack of activity suggests that others in the Government do not share that determination. Can he assure us that should there be an invasion, even tonight, we are ready to take action against that dirty money?

It will not have been missed by anyone in this House that we are all vulnerable not only to dirty money, but to illicit lobbying or influence by foreign agents—all of us in this House. We have to wake up to the threat of sub-threshold challenges, whether those are money, corruption or political interference—all of us. I am not going to throw stones in glass houses, but all Conservative Members and all Opposition Members know what that looks like. We have to have more transparency, as the beginning of that process, and we have to enact some of the laws that we already have. I would be very happy, on the hon. Gentleman’s behalf, to engage with the National Crime Agency to see what more we can do.

Order. If we have shorter questions and the Secretary of State can therefore give shorter answers, we will be able to get everyone in; if not, I am afraid that some people will be disappointed. As we can see, people are coming in for the next item of business, but this statement is important and I would like to give everybody the chance to speak. Shorter, please.

The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that sovereignty must be respected and that that includes Ukraine. Does my right hon. Friend believe that that will encourage President Putin to hold back? Should President Putin still invade, what impact will that have on Sino-Russian relationships and how concerned should we be for Taiwan? [Interruption.]

The Minister for the Armed Forces says, “Answer that in five words.”

It is a very important message from China to Russia, and President Putin should listen to it, but of course the most important message is that we demonstrate our resolve to protect our values, because whatever we do or do not do in this part of the world, China is watching.

The Secretary of State is being slightly more gracious about the work of European leaders in trying to find a diplomatic solution, but just a week or so ago he was saying that those efforts had “a whiff of Munich” about them. Does he want to apologise for that remark, which was not only crass, but undermined efforts to deliver Minsk II as the starting point for our best chance of avoiding war? Does he accept that if the Government are serious about playing a constructive role, they should start by getting their own house in order—first of all by repaying the almost £2 million that his party has received in Russian donations since the Prime Minister took office? Will he finally end London’s role in hiding the proceeds of Kremlin-connected corruption?

I am sure that the hon. Lady understands what I meant when I said that if President Putin invaded Ukraine, there would be “a whiff of Munich”. Of course, there were two parts to Munich: there was the appeasement, but there was also the fact that, all the way through, Hitler lied and had a plan to aggressively invade large parts of Europe. My point, as I set out in my article, was that if President Putin invaded, we would be chasing a straw man when all along he had a predetermined plan.

I suggest that, before making allegations of that sort, the hon. Lady should go back to the history books in order to understand what Munich was about. Then she will understand what I was saying. We know that, time and again, President Putin has ignored international law, ignored human rights, invaded countries, and murdered British people on these streets through orders to the GRU—and all that the hon. Lady can do is come here, stand up and tell us that we are in the wrong. Perhaps she should go to Moscow and tell it to them.

I know my right hon. Friend will agree that jaw-jaw is preferable to war-war, but does he accept that given Russian ambitions regarding Ukraine and events elsewhere, including in the South China sea, the time has finally come for the United Kingdom to recognise that we need to substantially increase our defence spending on a sustainable, long-term basis? Jaw-jaw is far more effective if a country has strong armed forces.

The Prime Minister supported and delivered the biggest increase in defence spending since the cold war. The purpose of that extra £24 billion was to modernise our armed forces, and also to ensure that we are able to enter new domains where we are threatened by both Russia and other adversaries. That is the right track.

We have been consistent, as has the Prime Minister, on the fundamental point that if the threat changes, we should always been open to review. We should also recognise that we achieve our strength in the west through our alliances: our alliances on our values, and our alliances on our defence spending. NATO is the best alliance in that regard. It is the keystone of European security. Our spending outstrips Russia’s, and our forces do so as well. The one thing that we must make sure that we continue is resolve, because resolve is what this crisis is about. We are resolved, the Prime Minister is resolved and the United Kingdom is resolved: we are going to stand up for our values again, and stand up to Putin’s aggression.

From a logistical perspective, may I ask what efforts are being made to ramp up the provision of equipment and parts which the Ukrainian military has specifically requested from the Ministry of Defence? How is that sourcing being co-ordinated with international partners to secure all the required resources and kit that are needed for the Ukrainians to defend themselves, and how are they being trained in the use of that kit?

I am in constant contact with my counterpart in Ukraine—we talk regularly—and the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have been incredibly supportive. We are currently at the stage where, as I said earlier, we have supplied the anti-tank weapons and other non-lethal equipment. Britain has been side by side with Ukraine since 2014-15, so there has been a significant amount of training and capacity-building, and we will continue to look into what other options are available. We have those discussions, and where we can, we meet Ukraine’s demand; where we cannot, we try to help others to meet it.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the leadership that he has shown in recent months. The paradox is that the more Putin tries to draw countries towards Moscow, the more he repels them and the more he revitalises the very alliance that he says he is most afraid of: NATO.

May I ask my right hon. Friend specifically about sanctions? Will the UK, when it presents its package, ensure that its sanctions are synchronised with those of the United States, that they include action to prevent UK banks from handling foreign currency transfers from Russian state-owned banks, and that they also include what I know our colleagues in the United States Senate would like to include—specific sanctions against Nord Stream 2?