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Security Partnerships

Volume 707: debated on Tuesday 25 January 2022

9. What recent diplomatic steps her Department has taken to help strengthen security partnerships with nations around the world. (905232)

We are building a network of security partnerships to protect our people, our partners and our freedoms. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has already outlined a number of interactions that she has had at multilateral and bilateral level, which echo conversations that the Prime Minister had last week. The Foreign Secretary was in Australia alongside the Defence Secretary for talks with our Australian counterparts, and on 12 January I was at the NATO headquarters alongside European and Atlantic allies for the NATO-Russia Council. As the Foreign Secretary has made clear, we are working through those partnerships to advance our interests from a position of strength.

I am very proud of the firm support that the UK has shown for Ukraine as we see increasingly unstable and threatening behaviour from Russia. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that as Russia’s threatening behaviour towards Ukraine continues and intensifies, he and all Ministers are working with our global partners to encourage further support for Ukraine?

I can absolutely confirm that our support for Ukraine is discharged not only bilaterally, with training teams and defensive military equipment support, but with work at a multinational level through the Quad, which I attended recently, through NATO and through other international institutions such as the G7, to ensure that all countries support the principles of self-determination, territorial integrity, peace and freedom.

As the world becomes more dangerous and more uncertain, we need to tackle the root causes of security threats to the UK, namely poverty and instability overseas. I therefore find it very concerning that spending allocations for the conflict, stability and security fund show huge reductions to aid programmes around the world for this financial year: a 63% drop in funding in the middle east and north Africa, for example, and a 53% reduction in the western Balkans. Does the Minister agree that the Government’s cuts throughout overseas development are compromising UK security and global stability? What will the Government do to address that?

We have spoken at length in this House about the economic impact that the country and indeed the world have felt from covid, which has forced us temporarily to reduce our expenditure on official development assistance. We have had confirmation that we will return to 0.7%. With respect to the historical reductions in key areas such as humanitarian aid and women and girls, we will ensure that that money is returned to the budgets, as the Foreign Secretary has made clear. The process for future budget allocations has not concluded; until it has, any talk about figures can only be speculative on the hon. Lady’s part.

While all eyes have been on Ukraine, my right hon. Friend will be aware that as a result of recent Russian naval activity, Sweden has taken the decision to send hundreds of troops and arms to the island of Gotland in the Baltic. What are the Government doing to support Baltic and Nordic countries, which feel very much in the frontline, against Russian aggression?

I can confirm that the Defence Secretary has been doing a lot of work in that area. The Foreign Secretary was in Riga not so long ago. We absolutely recognise that our northern partners, the Baltic states and the Scandinavian countries, are in a geographically difficult and vulnerable place. I can assure my hon. Friend that our support for freedom, democracy and peace extends to that part of the world, as well as to more high-profile issues such as those in Ukraine.