Skip to main content


Volume 720: debated on Tuesday 11 October 2022

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Defence to make a statement on our policy to deter and, if required, respond to the use of nuclear weapons by President Putin.

Russia’s continuing assault on Ukraine is an unprovoked and premeditated attack against a sovereign democratic state and it continues to threaten global security. This week, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is meeting with Defence Ministers in Brussels to discuss further support for Ukraine, and later today my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be speaking to members of the G7.

I can assure the House that the UK and our allies remain steadfast and united in our support for Ukraine. As previously set out to the House, Defence is playing a central role in the UK’s response to the Russian invasion, providing £2.3 billion-worth of military support and leading in the international response.

We were the first European country to provide lethal aid to Ukraine. To date, we have sent more than 10,000 anti-tank missiles, multiple-launch rocket systems, more than 200 armoured vehicles, more than 120 logistics vehicles, six Stormer vehicles fitted with Starstreak launchers and hundreds of missiles, as well as maritime Brimstone missiles. In addition, we have supplied almost 100,000 rounds of artillery ammunition, nearly 3 million rounds of small arms ammunition, 2,600 anti-structure munitions and 4.5 tonnes of plastic explosive.

Defence is also providing basic training to Ukrainian soldiers in the UK. To date, we have trained over 6,000 Ukrainian recruits in the UK, and we continually review and adjust the course to meet their requirements. Defence will continue to respond decisively to Ukraine’s requests and the equipment is playing a crucial role in stalling the Russian advance and supporting our Ukrainian friends.

President Putin’s comments on nuclear are irresponsible. No other country is talking about nuclear use. We do not see this as a nuclear crisis.

Thanks to our support and that of allies, Ukrainian forces have done the unthinkable in pushing back Russian force. However, with Putin now on the back foot and the third largest military in the world humiliated, this conflict has entered a darker chapter and we cannot be bystanders. Putin cannot be seen to lose this war and, as his response to the Kerch bridge attack shows, he is stooping to ever more unconventional tactics. The threat of Putin’s turning to tactical low-yield nuclear weapons remains low, but it has increased, posing questions for Britain and the United States that must be addressed before, not after, that line is crossed.

Russian military doctrine allows first use of nuclear weapons in response to conventional attacks on Russian soil. That is why the sham referendums took place in the Donbas region—so that Putin could claim it was part of the motherland. In response, as things stand, our formal position is so-called strategic ambiguity: the promise of a response, but no public clarity on what that might be.

We gained a reputation for blinking when it came to Georgia, on chemical weapons use in Syria and when the Crimea was annexed. I believe we should state now what our conventional response would be to Putin’s either deploying nuclear weapons directly or targeting hazardous infrastructure such as chemical or indeed civil nuclear plants. Such clarity could be the very deterrent that helps to prevent such hostile actions from taking place, rather than the vague position we have now.

Our adversaries—not just Russia—must know and fear the military consequences of daring to resort to using nuclear weapons, even if they are low yield. This is not an operational decision but a political call. We have a duty to do all we can to deter Putin from going nuclear. Let us not leave it to chance. Let us exhibit the robust statecraft and engagement that this unpredictable war now requires.

I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s comments. I reiterate what I said at the start: President Putin’s comments are irresponsible. No other country is talking about nuclear use, and we do not see this as a nuclear crisis. President Putin should be clear that, for the UK and our allies, any use of nuclear weapons at all would break the taboo on nuclear use that has held since 1945 and lead to severe consequences for Russia.

President Putin has launched an illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. His forces continue to commit senseless atrocities. The people of Ukraine seek only to restore their sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we will continue to support Ukraine’s right to defend.

My right hon. Friend speaks of tactical nuclear missiles, but nuclear is nuclear. I reiterate what the Secretary-General of NATO said:

“President Putin’s nuclear rhetoric is dangerous. It is reckless. NATO is of course vigilant. We monitor closely what Russia does. Russia must understand that nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought. And it will have severe consequences for Russia if they use nuclear weapons. And this has been very clearly conveyed to Russia. So we will continue to support Ukraine. And we will continue to support them in their efforts to liberate even more territory, because they have the right to do so.”

It is not and never has been tactically smart to outline exactly what the response would be to any potential situation. We will continue on the lines that this Government and, indeed, the Secretary-General have outlined.

I welcome the new Minister to his place. It is because Ukraine is winning that Putin’s behaviour is becoming so volatile. The sham referenda, the irresponsible nuclear sabre-rattling, the missile attacks on civilians—these are the hallmarks of a tyrant on the ropes and a tyrant who is losing.

Labour stands with our friends in Ukraine. With our unshakeable commitment to NATO, the Minister knows that he has our full support for the actions the Government are taking to help Ukraine win. Yesterday’s missile attacks on civilians are a significant escalation. The NATO Secretary-General was right to describe the attacks as “horrific and indiscriminate”.

Ministers have Labour’s full support in countering Putin’s aggression. In that spirit, I ask the Minister when he will set out a long-term strategy of support for Ukraine, so that we can make sure that Putin’s war ends in failure. Can he confirm that the NLAW—next generation light anti-tank weapon—replacement orders have finally been placed? When does he expect to replenish our depleted weapons stockpiles? What assessment has he made of the worrying statements by Lukashenko and the continued presence of Russian troops and armour in Belarus?

I would be grateful if the Minister addressed the concerning media reports of the withdrawal of almost 700 British troops currently deployed to our NATO ally Estonia, without any planned replacement. That risks sending the wrong message at the wrong time, and it has worried our international allies. We cannot walk away until the job is done. With that in mind, will he reassure the House that he will not withdraw any further UK troops from our allies, and that the UK will meet our NATO commitments?

Finally, as more bodies are unearthed at the sites of war crimes, we remember them and we remember those killed yesterday in Putin’s criminal missile strikes. Does the Minister agree that the best justice for those killed is victory for Ukraine, a free and sovereign nation, and war crime tribunals for those responsible?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind comments and I look forward to working across the Dispatch Boxes on these vital issues.

On the hon. Gentleman’s comments about the horrific war crimes we have seen unfold every time there is a Russian retreat, I think that every decent human being is appalled. I am proud that the UK Government are funding the International Criminal Court, and we will do everything we can to support Ukraine in bringing the perpetrators of these horrific crimes to justice.

I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I come back to him with a written answer on the postures from Lukashenko.

On Estonia, the overall capability of our commitment there is far more important than the number of troops alone. We have committed to strengthening that capability over the forthcoming years. I was in Estonia, and indeed Latvia and Lithuania, in my previous role in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. I have seen at first hand the work that takes place there. All our NATO allies can be reassured that we are committed to making sure that the NATO frontline is secure. We work with colleagues and there will be variation in how that is done.

With regard to support, the hon. Gentleman will have noticed that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has set up the international support fund. This country contributed £250 million to that, and I believe the total figure is now above €400 million. That is in place to help support Ukraine as this war moves forward and the conflict carries on, so that it can use that money not only in the conflict but to rebuild and, of course, ensure it has the ammunition supplies and things it needs.

With regard to NLAW and our weapons supply, we are working with industrial supply chains and are confident that we will have the ability to defend ourselves and to give support, but we do not comment on operational capability beyond that.

I welcome my right hon. Friend to his position. What has happened over the past few days is a war crime if ever there was a war crime, and I hope that the Government and the whole alliance will now commit to the pursuance of all those responsible for the deliberate targeting of civilian areas. There can be no respite and we should be sanctioning anybody we think has had anything to do with it.

I agree that ambiguity is not the same as no plan. The purpose behind what Putin is doing now is to split the alliance—everything he does is to split the alliance. What he wants is for part of the alliance to get wobbly and worried about the potential use of nuclear weapons and to start calling for negotiations. The critical issue here is that all of the alliance must remain united on the idea that we have a plan, but it is for the Minister to judge whether we would ever use nuclear weapons, not for us to say whether we would, and the alliance would stay together.

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for his kind comments. On his point about nuclear rhetoric, we have seen this pattern before. President Putin uses it as a sabre to rattle, to try to deter us and distract our efforts in Ukraine. It simply will not work because, fundamentally, NATO is a nuclear defensive alliance, and it will be for all the time that nuclear weapons exist. It is one that has been successful, and it is one that President Putin should take notice of. What is important at this moment in time, as we talk about the nuclear sabre-rattling, is that we stay calm, analyse the situation as it is and demand that he steps back from this dangerous nuclear rhetoric, so that there cannot be any miscalculation on any side as we move forward.

On war crimes, I fundamentally agree with what my right hon. Friend said. We will do everything to bring to justice those who have perpetuated these horrific crimes, which go against every aspect of the Geneva convention. Every day that this war goes on, more and more war crimes are committed.

I am pleased to welcome the new Minister to his place. These barbaric attacks by Russia on Ukraine’s civilian population and infrastructure, together with its extremely unwelcome nuclear rhetoric, demonstrate the renewed urgency with which Ukraine’s defensive capabilities need to be upgraded, particularly its air defences, such as that which Germany and the United States are sending. What anti-air assets is the UK sending, and how can that be accelerated and increased?

Moreover, is the UK, like Estonia, preparing to send more winter equipment to assist defensive operations in Ukraine throughout its long, harsh winter? Similarly, what further assistance will the world-leading cold weather combat specialists 45 Commando, based in Arbroath, be tasked with to support Ukraine’s defence forces in their winter combat operations? The Minister attempted to justify the halving of numbers in Estonia by saying that this is not a numbers game, but of course force strength is all about the numbers, and I wonder how he thinks they will be viewing that in Estonia and Moscow. Perhaps he can explain to the House what recent behaviour from Russia has indicated a lessening threat to our NATO allies on the eastern flank, from whom the UK appears to be shamelessly walking away.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind comments. On Estonia, we are not talking about the UK walking away from a NATO ally; this is about NATO defence, and NATO operations that vary over time. We work with our allies. I have recently been to these countries, and have seen the exercises taking place and how we play a part in them. We should not focus on just one area and then suggest that we have walked away; we have not.

On the hon. Gentleman’s air defence questions, of course we have Stormer vehicles and Starstreak missiles. We remain committed to delivering what Ukraine needs, when it asks for it, in the light of how, tactically, it can best be used. Operational capabilities are the subject of constant conversation between the Ukrainian and British Governments. On cold weather preparation, we are working exceptionally closely with the Ukrainians to supply them with the equipment and training that they need to get through this winter.

I am delighted to see my right hon. Friend in his position. He talked about the coalition of countries that have been helping Ukraine to defend itself, which includes the United Kingdom—something of which we should be very proud. Will he confirm that Iran has supplied Mohajer-6 and Shahed-series unmanned aerial vehicles to Russia? What other countries are giving logistical support and weaponry to Russia in its war of choice against the Ukrainian people?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his comments. I hope that he will forgive me if I cannot answer that question directly; I will write to him when I have the facts and the answers.

Yesterday, I was talking to Natalia, a Ukrainian teacher who came to my constituency with her seven-year-old twins when the war broke out. She watched in horror over the weekend as bombs rained down on her home city of Kyiv. Her husband and mother are hiding in a bomb shelter. Natalia’s six-month placement under the Homes for Ukraine scheme is at an end, and she is terrified of having to return with her children. What conversations has the Minister had with his colleagues in the Home Office and in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure that those who have fled war do not face homelessness as placements come to an end?

The hon. Lady raises an important issue, which was mentioned earlier. If she sends me the exact details, I will talk to colleagues in the Home Office.

Events on the edge of Ukraine have become more and more alarming over the last few days. Clearly there is a major role for NATO in trying to bring back a peaceful situation. What information can the Minister, whom I congratulate on his new position, share with us today on talks that we have had with countries such as China and India, which may have useful leverage with Putin?

Of course, the response to the situation in Ukraine is Government-wide; it involves the Foreign Office as much as the Ministry of Defence. Responsibility for the relationships that my hon. Friend mentions sits in the Foreign Office, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will have heard his comments.

Do the Government regard the Kerch bridge, which links Russia with Ukrainian territory seized by Russia in 2014, and which was attacked over the weekend, as a legitimate military target? Would the Minister care to contrast that target with the pictures we saw yesterday of a large missile crater in Kyiv, right next to a children’s playground?

Of course, Crimea is Ukrainian territory that has been invaded. Any allegations about what happened at the bridge, and any questions about what is behind the attack, are for the Ukrainians to answer, but what happened at Kyiv is simply a war crime. We will make every effort to hunt down the people responsible and to bring them to justice.

My right hon. Friend is a reassuring presence at the Dispatch Box, and I congratulate him on his recent appointment to his post. Does he agree that all that will deter Putin from the use of nuclear weapons is the thought that: a) they may be ineffective; and b) their use may not result in the west withdrawing its military support for Ukraine, which is what has enabled it to resist successfully so far? Is it not therefore imperative that the west makes it clear that the support will continue? Did he note the remarks of General David Petraeus, who said that western support, in conventional terms, would be redoubled if Putin made any such move?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his kind comments. Indeed, General Petraeus really just outlines the situation overall that NATO is united. It is a defensive force and a nuclear defensive force. I am proud that this country has had a constant at-sea nuclear deterrent for almost 54 years. Statistically, that is deemed to be impossible, but it is something we have achieved and continue to achieve. That acts as a major counterbalance to any leader of a country who may be thinking that nuclear weapons may be something to use. The policy has been shown to work, but we have to calm down and take the air out of the talk about where we are moving with the nuclear rhetoric. It is highly irresponsible of the Kremlin to be upping the rhetoric on nuclear weapons, and I hope that it will draw back from those comments, because the last thing we want to see is any miscalculation and we must make sure that it does everything to take it out. Fundamentally, to answer my right hon. Friend, the NATO alliance is showing just how united it is and that it will stand up to this level of nuclear threat.

I thank the right hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood) for tabling this urgent question on the enormously important issues that we have been discussing. I must disagree with his suggestion in newspapers today that we reconsider no-fly zones over Ukraine’s cities and critical national infrastructure, and expediting Ukraine’s membership of NATO. Putin is ever weaker at home in Russia, and while this is a failed operation in Ukraine against Ukraine, his popularity could grow significantly in Russia if his attempts to paint this as a NATO-Russia conflict are successful. Can the Minister outline what further steps the Government intend to take to ensure that we and all of our NATO allies are as one in deciding what additional support can be provided to Ukraine?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments, and I think his attitude to no-fly zones and NATO membership is based in reality. What we are seeing is the NATO alliance and other allies around the world determined to give the support that we can give to Ukraine. There is no suggestion of backing down on that support, and we have support from outside the NATO allies. It is an international coalition that is helping to train Ukrainian troops, helping to contribute towards the international funds and, indeed, supplying lethal and non-lethal aid, and that alliance is growing stronger.

I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

During the recess, I had the opportunity to travel to Lviv and Kyiv to see the work of the HALO Trust, which is a charity based in my constituency that focuses on de-mining and attempting to bring areas back to a degree of normality. I was struck by two things in Ukraine. One was the gratitude of the people for the support that this country has given during the conflict, but the other was their efforts to bring about a degree of normality. Does the Minister agree that yesterday’s events were a deliberate attempt by Russia to disrupt the normality that civilians are trying to achieve in these cities and across Ukraine? Does he acknowledge that they are indeed war crimes because they are focused on civilians? Does he also agree with me that, given the resolve that the people of Ukraine have shown to date, they will not succeed?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend and, yes, I agree with what he has said. Indeed, last Tuesday I visited Ukrainians being trained by our forces in north Yorkshire, and I managed to speak to some who were on day one of their training. What struck me was their determination, no matter their age, to make sure that their country, their sovereign land, their families and their lives will be returned to normal, and they will fight back against this enemy, so I completely agree with what my right hon. Friend said.

I warmly congratulate the Minister. He looks very comfortable at the Dispatch Box, although obviously we do not want him to feel too comfortable there. He is right to say that Putin’s targets yesterday were either deliberate or deliberately indiscriminate, and either way that amounts to a war crime.

May I ask him about Elon Musk, who seems to be playing a double game at the moment, and whose tweet earlier this week was profoundly unhelpful? There are also questions about why there have been outages of the Starlink system, which may have made bigger difficulties for Ukraine. Is there a moment at which we might have to consider sanctioning Elon Musk?

Sanctions remain under review at all times, and everything will be taken into consideration in the round. We must always ensure that we are well aware of all the facts rather than just reacting to social media, and then those things can be looked at, including whether any sanctions would be appropriate.

I warmly welcome the Minister to his post.

Today is Ukraine Day at Cheltenham literature festival, and this morning I had the extraordinary privilege of meeting musicians, poets and writers who have travelled from bombarded cities to come to Cheltenham to perform. Will the Minister join me in thanking the British Council and Cheltenham literature festival for ensuring that our support is not just military, but extends to supporting the culture of that great country?

I am delighted to do that. I know my hon. and learned Friend will have been deeply involved with his constituents and the Ukrainians, and that his office will have given them the warmest welcome possible.

Putin’s murderous actions over the weekend are a surefire sign of his desperation, which comes partly from the host of desertions among the Russian military, including from an army, thought to be his pride, that is in retreat. Should we be making the point that every person in Russian uniform who commits a war crime will be sought, not just those in positions of power, and should we be doing everything we can to increase the scale of Russian desertions and undermine Putin’s campaign that way?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and I completely agree with him. We must not underestimate the scale of the atrocities that are being committed, which are war crimes. Many Members of the House have served in the military, and many have been in the battlefield. They are trained to the laws of the Geneva convention and the laws of the battlefield, as are many people in Russia—certainly the Russian leaders will know those laws. There are consequences to breaking them, and I am proud that we are putting funding, investment and resources into the International Criminal Court to bring those who do so to court. I know that whatever we do will have support across the House. We have to say that it does not matter who someone is, from a squaddie to a general—if they have committed a war crime, we will find them and send them to prison. If they do not believe that, they should remember that we are still sending former SS officers who are almost in their hundreds to prison today.

The Russian doctrine of escalate to de-escalate almost certainly means that when the rats are cornered—and the rat Putin and his rat-like friends are cornered right now—they will lash out. That is almost without question. I hope the Minister is right in thinking that that will not necessarily be a nuclear lash-out—I think that is unlikely, although we must be ready for it—but there are many other ways he could lash out, including with cyber, chemical and biological weapons, or economic weapons. That might involve covert operations beyond Ukraine, not necessarily in Ukraine itself. What preparations has the Ministry of Defence made? I do not want details, which the Minister will quite rightly not tell us, but I hope the MOD is making careful preparations for all sorts of hybrid warfare that may now occur, including in places other than Ukraine.

My hon. Friend raises points that we have spoken about many times in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and he will be aware that chemical, biological, hybrid and cyber warfare are certainly in our military planning and strategy, as indeed are nuclear weapons. Huge amounts of resources go into cyber capability and other such areas. Indeed, part of the memorandum that the former Prime Minister signed with Finland and Sweden was to give support in those areas if they were to be attacked. Overall, I assure my hon. Friend that all those issues are discussed in the round. I could not comment on specific operational capabilities, but I hope I can reassure him that those issues are treated just as seriously.

I went to Kyiv recently with a group of other parliamentarians, and there was no conversation that did not include the need for justice and the need to take all war criminals to court. What discussions has the Minister had about not just freezing assets but seizing and repurposing them to rebuild Ukraine? Has he had discussions about a special tribunal to work alongside the ICC to prosecute acts of aggression and bring more perpetrators to justice?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the intent of her questions. I have not had those discussions—obviously, I am early in the role—but I will take those comments back to other Ministers. Overall, that question goes to allies and the international community—it is not just about our approach, because it is not just this country seizing assets and sanctioning, and it is not just this country that will be involved in taking things forward with the ICC. I cannot answer her questions specifically, but I am sure that colleagues have heard her and, if she would like to write to me with more details, I would be happy to respond.

As Russia loses on the battlefield, it seems to be engaging in retribution through missile attacks on civilian areas. When the all-party parliamentary group on Ukraine recently went to Kyiv, the Defence Minister said to us that if refugees are to be encouraged to move back to Ukraine and internally displaced persons are to be encouraged to move back to reoccupied areas, defence against missile attack will become essential. Other countries are looking at that seriously and providing anti-missile support. Will we do so as well?

Indeed, and we are already supplying levels of air support. What I said earlier remains relevant: we will continue to work with the Ukrainians to try to deliver what they need to defend their country. We are already supplying air defence systems.

I wish the Minister well as he takes up his new role. He is right to say that we have engaged with and are responding to the requests from Ukraine, but he should know that when we provided Starstreaks and NLAWs, which are made in my constituency, we did so in the face of a request for the imposition of a no-fly zone, and we did not go that far. Even though we are giving surface-to-air missiles and air defence capabilities, Ukraine is, today and yesterday, still asking for more. This morning, the US announced that it would provide new high mobility artillery rocket systems for greater air defence capacity. Will the Minister assure us—if not today on the Floor of the House then in the coming days—that he will engage to ensure that we are responding to the requests that Ukraine is making?

We are indeed responding to as many requests as we can from Ukraine. The Government’s policy on no-fly zones remains the same; it has not changed. However, wars and conflicts develop over time and we are seeing large advances. We will also see a change in the weather as winter sets in. All of those things create a different operational demand from what was taking place three months ago. We therefore work closely with our Ukrainian colleagues to try to deliver to them what they need to carry out operations successfully.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that despite President Putin’s heightened rhetoric and threats to use nuclear weapons irresponsibly in Ukraine, that may just be further maskirovka? His track record shows that, in desperation, he is far more likely to resort to chemical weapons. What should NATO’s response be to that?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who characterises the actions of President Putin in desperation quite well. The reality is that NATO treats all weapons of mass destruction with the same seriousness and that, operationally, how to respond to such things is discussed constantly. Again, I may have to disappoint my hon. Friend. It would be foolish to outline exactly what the response would be to any weapon of mass destruction because, if President Putin does not know what the consequences would be, he cannot make calculations about using them in the first place.

I congratulate the Minister on his new role. Further to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham West and Penge (Ellie Reeves), may I ask whether there have been any discussions with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which is responsible for the Homes for Ukraine scheme? Many councils are worried that they will have to deal with homelessness among many of the Ukrainians who are here on that scheme.

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady. That has not come across my desk at this stage, but we will make sure that the Home Office and DLUHC pick up on it.

I welcome the Minister to his new role. Specifically in response to the war in Ukraine, the Prime Minister made a commitment to update the integrated review, and we now know that Professor John Bew is leading a process from Downing Street that aims to report before Christmas. Given the concern expressed by Members across the House about potential loss of capability and personnel, does the Minister think that it would be prudent not to make any cuts to defence until we know what the outcome of that review is going to be?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is a commitment of the Government to increase spending on defence—to move to 3% by the end of the 2030s, with 2.5% on the way—but we have already increased defence spending by £24 billion in real terms since 2020, and there are no plans to cut the defence budget at this time.

I welcome the Minister to his place. I had a conversation today with the Local Government Association, which informed me that 1,915 Ukrainian families have presented as homeless—a point that my hon. Friends have raised. Will the Minister have urgent conversations with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the relevant Home Office Minister? It really is life or death for many, and housing them will help motivate the troops in Ukraine.

My colleagues and I will indeed take up the issues that are being raised on the Floor of the House with the relevant Departments. We will make sure that those conversations are taking place.

Under Putin, Russia has become a terrorist state and a terrorist sponsoring state, whether it is killing people in our own country whom it regards as dissidents, blowing up infrastructure or now, of course, rape and pillage across Ukraine. The latest act of terror, of course, is terror from the skies. Can the Minister give us an assurance that he will work with our Government and with Governments across Europe to ensure that, if no-fly zones are imposed across Ukraine, we will at least provide Ukraine with the necessary defences to ensure that the terror from the skies is dealt with effectively?

I can give that assurance to the right hon. Gentleman, because that is indeed what we are doing. As I made clear earlier, the Government’s position on no-fly zones remains unchanged, but we are delivering air defence capability to the Ukrainians. We will continue to deliver on that capability, along with other international allies. As I know the hon. Gentleman appreciates, a mix of equipment is going into Ukraine from various allies, and that has to be in reaction to what the Ukrainians need. I am trying to give him the reassurance that we are doing everything we can with all international partners to deliver what the Ukrainians need on the ground.

I congratulate the Minister on his new role. Given the situation in Ukraine and wider volatility, will he at least agree to review the decision to remove UK forces from Estonia, or is he unable to do so because it forms part of wider armed forces cuts by his Government, which are alarming our allies, undermining our security and directly breaking a 2019 Conservative manifesto commitment?

As I made clear earlier, we remain committed to the NATO alliance and to providing what resources NATO needs, where and when they are needed. The UK has not withdrawn from Estonia. We are still involved in the Baltic states. We are involved in the joint expeditionary force and the forward presence. It is not fair to say that Britain is walking away from these countries, because we are simply not.

I welcome the Minister to his place; I think he is doing very well this afternoon. This is probably the most perilous time that I can remember, as a long-standing Member of the House. It is dangerous and we should be very careful. He said that we should lower the rhetoric and show quiet determination. On that note, can we see more presence with the United States and the rest of the NATO allies meeting together and showing quiet assurance firmly against what is happening? This weekend, we saw the shift politically of Russia to the extreme right, with the appointment of a new general in charge. We are in perilous times.

I thank the hon. Gentleman—those are kind words from somebody of his experience—and he is absolutely right to speak about the real danger that the world is in, with Russia raising the nuclear rhetoric, which does need to be brought back down. The most important thing in defence and international affairs is patience, calmness and deterrence. Not outlining clearly what our reactions would be is an important part of a deterrent. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that it is important that we carry on working with allies, and the Secretary of State for Defence will meet other Defence Ministers shortly. All those issues are about making sure that we are united, have the best strategy and, of course—I hope this reassures the hon. Gentleman —that we try to de-escalate. We can all imagine some of the terrifying consequences, but we hope that we can continue with what have been successful policies for decades now and calm down the rhetoric.

I welcome the Minister to his place. Following the dreadful attacks this week, many Ukrainian families in Britain will understandably be thinking again about when they will return home. Further to the questions from my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham West and Penge (Ellie Reeves) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson), what additional support is the Government considering for councils and local Ukrainian community centres in the UK, which are doing so much to support families at this very difficult time?

As I said, I cannot answer that question from the Dispatch Box, but I will look into it and respond to the hon. Gentleman in writing.

With reports of nuclear plant employee, Valeriy Martynyuk, being kidnapped by Russian forces and facing potential torture, what support is the UK providing to secure his release?

We are getting back into the question of the horrific war crimes that are taking place; we are working as closely as we can with international allies in that area. This is of course a diplomatic—as well as an MOD—issue, but across the alliance, we are determined to pursue the perpetrators of kidnapping and mutilation, which are clearly defined in the Geneva convention as war crimes. We will prosecute, as the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr Perkins) made clear. Whether it involves someone of the most junior rank or the most senior officer, we will pursue everybody. They should know and fear that, because if they commit these crimes, the international community will pursue them. It is still pursuing Nazi war criminals, bringing them to justice and still imprisoning them. We will not stop.

Thank you, Mr Speaker—it is always good to know that the Shannon name is growing and, obviously, that will help in 18 years’ time whenever they come to vote.

I welcome the Minister to his place, wish him well and thank him for his answers. Has an assessment been done of how effectively food and medical supplies are entering into the communities that are on the outskirts of battle zones? How can we further step up to help Ukrainian citizens who are fighting for freedom and liberty and for their very lives?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the new addition to his family; I know that his grandchild will not have any problem in having someone to give them a bedtime story.

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that he asks a technical question, and I will seek to answer him in writing on those specific details.