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Ukraine: Arms and Ammunition Costs

Volume 837: debated on Tuesday 26 March 2024


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what has been the cost to public funds of the arms and ammunition supplied to Ukraine so far.

My Lords, I declare my interest as a serving Army reservist. The £7.1 billion that we have committed since February 2022 covers a broad range of military support to Ukraine. This includes rapid procurement and gifting of equipment, development of international capability coalitions and training support through Operation Interflex. We have not provided a breakdown of this military support to Ukraine to ensure that we do not jeopardise a live operation by putting into the public domain information that could be used to assist our adversaries.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that answer, which I understand. However, is he clear that the extent of the training being carried out for Ukrainian personnel is, to some extent, causing some problems, not least with the Hawk aircraft? I gather that nine of these aircraft went unserviceable.

My Lords, Operation Interflex and all training for Ukrainian armed service personnel are key components of our support for their fight. The UK continues to deliver a major training operation for Ukrainian forces, with over 36,000 Ukrainian personnel trained in the UK since June 2022 and more than 60,000 Ukrainians trained since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

My Lords, as we approach US elections, Trump, a possible victor— who knows?—is threatening cuts, especially on arms expenditure for Ukraine. Are the Government and Parliament thinking through the consequences of today’s trajectory, which, without an open and honest debate here in Europe, may draw us into a wider conflict, with Putin now openly referring to war? Such a war could destabilise Europe, challenge public expenditure priorities and potentially unleash forces of European instability. Why is there no polling on the war? There is polling in America.

There was a broad range of topics in the noble Lord’s questions. First, it is not for us to comment on US domestic affairs. The United States is our closest ally, and we will work closely with whomever wins this year’s election, just as we have with current and previous Administrations. On NATO, the United Kingdom urges all allies to meet their NATO commitments and increase their contributions to the alliance.

My Lords, first, I thank the Minister for his service. Are the arms and ammunition supplied to Ukraine predicated on legal advice received by the Government? If so, has such advice been received before supplying arms to Israel and the IDF, in the light of the ICJ ruling?

In relation to the Israel/Gaza conflict, we continue to call for international humanitarian law to be respected and for civilians to be protected. Israel has said that it plans to act within international humanitarian law, and has the ability to do so. At the same time, we are deeply concerned about the impact on the civilian population.

My Lords, can the Minister tell us how closely we are co-ordinating our efforts in the provision of arms and assistance to Ukraine? What steps are the Government taking to expand domestic production, as the consumption of arms, in particular shells, in the Ukraine conflict is clearly very high?

My Lords, as part of the most recent financial contribution, there is a dedicated artillery package. On 24 February 2024, it was announced that the UK would spend £245 million throughout the next year to procure and invigorate supply chains to produce such urgently needed artillery ammunition for Ukraine.

My Lords, I remind your Lordships’ House of my interest as a serving member of the Armed Forces. The UK Government should be commended for their gifting in kind to Ukraine through the KINDRED programme. However, it has exposed the fragility of the land industrial base. Further to the previous question, is it now not key to look carefully at perhaps moving away from doing orders bit by bit, towards ensuring a continuous flow, perhaps working with our NATO allies? Rather like a maritime industrial base, this would ensure that our industrial base can be expanded when required.

My noble friend makes a very important point. The Ministry of Defence remains fully engaged with industry, allies and partners to ensure both the continuation of supplies to Ukraine and the replacement of all equipment and munitions granted in kind from UK stocks as rapidly as possible. I am pleased to tell the House that a number of substantial contracts have been placed directly to replenish UK stockpiles. These include securing contracts for next generation light anti-tank weapons, Starstreak high-velocity missiles, lightweight multirole missiles, Javelin and Brimstone missiles, 155 millimetre artillery rounds and 5.56 millimetre rifle rounds.

My Lords, the key figure that the noble Lord gave this Chamber was the £7.1 billion that this country has already provided to Ukraine. I hope that, in due course, we will provide more if more is needed. Is this not the price of defending democracy and freedom? We should stand with Ukraine and support it in every way we can. This is the official position of His Majesty’s Opposition. I hope the noble Lord can agree with it.

I pay tribute to the noble Lord and to His Majesty’s loyal Opposition for their continued support, from the first day of this conflict. We hope that the conflict will come to an end as soon as possible, but we will do whatever it takes to support Ukraine in her fight.

My Lords, could the Minister go a bit further in response to the point from the noble Lord, Lord Wallace? The contribution that the UK has made to Ukraine is welcome and to be applauded, but by itself it is wholly insufficient. President Macron has said that Europe must do whatever is necessary to ensure Ukraine’s success, irrespective of political decisions in the United States. However, as yet, there has been no sign of any substance following up that assertion. What detailed discussions are the UK Government having with the EU to give that statement reality, because the urgency is real and now.

I agree with the noble and gallant Lord that the urgency is real and now. The UK and France stand side by side with Ukraine, including through co-ordinating training Ukrainian fighter pilots and marines, and advocating for the Ukrainian cause at NATO, the G7 and the UN Security Council. The UK was the first country to sign a security guarantee with Ukraine. France has now also signed security guarantees, and of course we want others to do the same.

Does the Minister acknowledge that, as the war has developed, it has many more characteristics similar to what I might describe as a 20th-century war, rather than the 21st-century war we thought it might be? It has a lot of traditional methods—if that is the right way to describe it—of fighting, with trenches and all the rest of it. Given that, were the Government prepared for the resulting demand for munitions on a scale which, as far as I can see, was never anticipated?

My Lords, this goes back to my point about how defence is engaging with industry to replenish stockpiles as soon as possible. The noble Lord is absolutely right in one respect: this is a form of brutal, attritional trench warfare—we call it FIWAF, meaning fighting in woods and forest. However, it has the very new and dangerous 21st-century complexity of unmanned aerial craft, otherwise known as drones. So this is a new and incredibly dangerous battlespace.

My Lords, following the question from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, should not the Government be actively seeking assistance and increased activity from our European NATO allies? Should we not have a clear plan to put pressure on them?

I take my noble friend’s point, as I do the noble and gallant Lord’s. I assure the House that dialogue is ongoing, all the time.