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Ukraine: Humanitarian and Economic Support

Volume 834: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2023


Asked by

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what additional humanitarian and economic support he is providing to Ukraine.

My Lords, since February 2022, we have committed over £4.7 billion in humanitarian and economic support to Ukraine. This year, the UK is providing $1 billion of support to Ukraine’s budget, through loan guarantees, and £127 million of humanitarian support for Ukraine and Moldova. During my recent visit to Ukraine, I announced further support for Ukrainians directly impacted by the invasion: £10 million for the Ukrainian Red Cross Society, to provide medical supplies, and £7 million to volunteer organisations delivering humanitarian assistance. We will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.

My Lords, I thank the Foreign Secretary for his Answer and I refer to my entry in the register of interests. Can I say how much we all welcome him here for this first monthly interrogation in the House of Lords, which I am sure he is likely to enjoy? After all, his very presence in this Chamber has given a fillip to those of us who have to go around saying “Do you know who I used to be?”

I commend him for the fact that his first visit as Foreign Secretary was to Ukraine. The Ukrainians are not just fighting for their country, their land and their lives; they are also fighting very much for us. Surely, they do not need more visits and speeches but more weapons, guns and more ammunition, and they need more equipment. In that context, why was there no additional military aid offered in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Budget? Why is there no perspective on military aid for 2024, when the 2023 money is going to run out in a few weeks’ time—in March next year?

I thank the noble Lord for his question. I absolutely remember not only who he is but who he used to be. He was an incredibly effective Secretary-General of NATO and did fantastic work. It is worth recalling some of the things he said to President Putin back in the day in 2002-03, which are very relevant today. To answer his question directly, I think we have given £4.6 billion of military support. We will continue to give the support that is necessary.

One of the things I found very impressive about going to Ukraine was how much they rate our support. They refer to us as their number one partner. It has been very good to see that. The one area where we can do more is in trying to mobilise the British defence industries to produce the stocks that are needed, rather than simply running down stocks. We can also work with European allies. Sometimes, if they are reluctant to give support, they may be able to backfill some of our capabilities and we can give more. I am absolutely clear that the military support is essential; that is what is helping Ukraine to succeed.

My Lords, I join the welcome to my noble friend and wish him every possible success. Does he share my concern at the slowing up of the counteroffensive in Ukraine? Will he make it a particular study of his to see what can be done to increase the weapons supply so that these brave people who, as the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, said, are fighting for us, succeed?

I thank my noble friend for his question. I well remember when we were on the campaign trail together in Staffordshire. He was rather more successful: he fought South Staffordshire; I fought Stafford, and Stafford fought back rather effectively at the time.

I think we should be clear about the success the Ukrainians are having. It is not much remarked upon. Of course, the land picture is one thing, but what has happened on the Black Sea is that the Ukrainians have pushed the Russian navy right back across the Black Sea, sinking a number of their ships and opening up a grain corridor for ships. That is essential, because ultimately we need the Ukrainian economy to grow. Ships are now sailing, exports are moving and the economy is growing. They destroyed about one-fifth of Russia’s attack helicopters in one night recently. So, yes, there has been a difficult picture on land, but overall big success. Combined with the fact that this country is now knocking at the door of both NATO and the EU, that is a very positive picture for Ukraine, and it is important we get it across.

My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord to his position and to your Lordships’ House. It is clear that, whatever the outcome of the war, economic support on a considerable scale will be needed in Ukraine for many years to come. This has to be an international effort led by Europe, and if there is to be a co-ordinated European response, the UK has to be at the heart of it. What institutional framework involving the EU and UK does the noble Lord propose to ensure that economic support is provided in the most efficient and effective way?

I thank the noble Lord for his question. There are two answers to that. One is the EPC, this new body that brings together EU members with other European countries, including the United Kingdom. That is a good forum in which to talk about our support for Ukraine. The other is the Ukraine Recovery Conference that we hosted here in June, which will be a regular fixture—other countries will host it—and brings together everybody to make sure that we maximise the economic support. It marshalled something like $60 billion of economic support for Ukraine. So there are ways in which to make sure that we combine effectively with European partners and others to get this essential assistance in place.

My Lords, in answer to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, about what the Government are committing in the way of weapons to Ukraine for 2024, the Foreign Secretary made lots of nice phrases and comments—but could he actually answer the noble Lord’s question? What commitment can he make to what weapons there are and how much we are spending on weapons for 2024 for Ukraine?

I thank the noble Baroness for the question. I do not have the figure for what 2024 will provide. All I can say is that we are absolutely committed to continuing to support Ukraine at the level or even ahead of what we have done. To be clear about this, it is not just the scale of support; it is the type of support. One thing that the UK has done—and I pay tribute to my successors as Prime Minister in this—is to be always ahead of the game. Lots of people were worried about giving them NLAW anti-tank missiles, but we went ahead and did it—then others did. Lots of people were worried about giving support in terms of tanks; we did it, and others followed—and the same again with long-range artillery and, crucially, the same again with Storm Shadow missiles, or so-called long-range fires, which have made such a difference right across the battle space. We will continue to support them at that level, asking them what it is they most need and making sure that our support is effective.

My Lords, I reiterate, as I have done before, our full support for the Government’s actions, militarily and economically and in terms of humanitarian support for Ukraine. The noble Lord said that we must remain ahead of the game, and one clear thing that we need to ensure is that the Government who have caused this war pay for the rebuilding of Ukraine. Of course, the EU has already set out a plan to repurpose Russian frozen assets; Canada has passed laws to do it; and the US has drafted laws to do it. When will we see this Government act, and not be behind the game?

I thank the noble Lord for his question. It is an extremely important point, and it is one of the things that I have looked at since taking office. I am going to Washington this week and will be discussing that specific point with my counterparts in the United States. To me, it is clear that this is confiscated money; it should be taken away from the Russians who possess it and should be used as a downpayment now—instead, as it were, of reparations coming later. Of course, there are all sorts of legal concerns and all sorts of concerns about precedent and chilling effects on investment and the rest of it. But I am with the noble Lord on the moral and emotional stance—that this is the right thing to do. Let us see if we can get it done.

My Lords, could the Minister comment on his department’s assessment of reports that not only has Turkey vastly increased its trade with Russia but that Turkish ports are being used for arms smuggling and, in some cases, exporting dual-purpose goods into Russia, thereby helping Russia? I wonder what the assessment is, and what we might be able to do about that.

I thank the right reverend Prelate for his question. He is absolutely right: one thing that we have to do is to look right across the world at where there is potential for countries exporting dual-use goods and other goods of concern to Russia so they can build more weapons and drones and all the rest of it. He is absolutely right that there are concerns about Turkey, and I raised those specifically with the Turkish Foreign Minister when I met him recently at the NATO conference. There are also concerns about other countries, and I can tell him and all noble Lords that we are going though it country by country and concern by concern, trying to track down where those dual-use goods are coming from and trying to take the appropriate measures, including sanctions, when necessary.