25 Feb 22. Defence Committee to hold session on NATO, the UK and the US. On 1 March, at 14.30, the Defence Committee continues its inquiry on US, UK and NATO, with an evidence session hearing from expert witnesses. The session will explore how the UK can best support the implementation of the NATO 2030 agenda. The Committee will speak to Dr Jamie Shea, the President at the Centre for War Studies at the University of Southern Denmark and Associate Fellow with Chatham House and James J. Townsend Jr. is an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and the President of the Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA). The session will likely include discussion on where the UK and NATO align and diverge in their understanding of global threats and their view of how to respond, particularly in light of the crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine. Ways in which the political consultation in NATO has, and can further be improved will likely be explored during this session. The Committee may also ask how best to preserve NATO’s technical edge and foster technological interoperability between Allies. The session will likely also discuss the new strategic concept and funding commitments to be agreed at the June 2022 summit.
14.30, 1 March:
- Dr Jamie Shea – the President at the Centre for War Studies at the University of Southern Denmark and Associate Fellow with Chatham House.
- James J. Townsend Jr. – Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and the President of the Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA).
25 Feb 22. Defence publishes Government response to “We’re going to need a bigger Navy.” Today, the Defence Committee publishes the Government response to its report “We’re going to need a bigger Navy”. The Committee’s report called for the Government to expand the fleet, to plug capability gaps, particularly in weapons systems, and to support the British Shipbuilding Industry. The Government’s response welcomes the Committee’s report and agrees with much of the Committee’s assessment of the strategic environment. The response agrees with many of the Committees recommendations, for example the need to develop systems to counter hypersonic weapons and the explore the use of common missile launch systems. The Government has also agreed with the need for increased Parliamentary scrutiny of shipbuilding plans and Surface Fleet availability and has agreed to provide the Committee with an annual report on these topics. The Government’s response does raise a number of concerns that the Committee will follow up in future evidence sessions and correspondence:
- The Government has once again rejected decades of consistent recommendations about how to support the British shipbuilding industry by explicitly declining to provide a guaranteed pipeline of work. Promising the “opportunity” for the necessary baseline of work does not provide the certainty that industry needs to invest. The Government must urgently publish the National Shipbuilding Strategy refresh and use it to rectify this approach.
- The statement to the Committee that it will give all necessary scrutiny to the procurement of an Interim Surface to Surface Guided Weapon Capability to replace Harpoon after 2023 are hard to square with the Government’s notice to industry that this programme has been cancelled. The Government should be honest with the Committee about the status of this programme and how they intend Royal Navy ships to be able to counter enemy vessels in the roughly 10 years until the FC/ASW is planned for availability.
- The Government has not considered accelerating the Type 45 Power Improvement Project. In fact the timings make it appear that for at least two of the ships the time taken in PIP is actually being increased to more than 12 months.
- The information about the investment in the UK Commando Forces programme is welcomed, but we would appreciate further clarification on what the Government’s intention is for the Royal Marines Commando amphibious capability.
- The plans to replace RFA Argus with the Multi Role Support Ships raise further questions. The Government should make clear if RFA Argus’s retirement date will be extended until the dedicated primary casualty receiver MRSS is operational and whether the MRSS will be configured to offer the same level of casualty support as the Argus.
- It is disappointing that the Government has refused to engage with the Committee on questions of submarine availability. The Government must find a way to keep the Committee appropriately briefed on this issue to enable effective scrutiny to take place.
Chair of the Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood MP, said: “I am pleased to see the Government’s thorough response to our report. There a huge amount of common ground. Both the Committee and the Government recognise the strategic importance of the Navy, and the many challenges it will face in the years ahead. The Royal Navy is one of the world’s most sophisticated and technologically-advanced modern fighting forces. However, complacency comes at a dire cost. Failure to continue to invest in our fleet will leave us with capability chasms not gaps, which will only become harder to fix. In particular, the retirement of Harpoon without ready replacements only leaves us more vulnerable in the short term. I am glad to see the Government’s plans to increase vessels’ lethality. The porcupines’ claws are long overdue. This is a welcome step in the right direction. But we can’t just upgrade the Navy, we need to also expand. The current fleet is, without a doubt, in need of expansion. I would urge the Government to re-evaluate its refusal to commission more vessels than planned. The strategic importance of our Naval capabilities cannot be overstated. We need reliable and responsive military assets for moments of crisis. The failure of HMS Diamond to leave port in response to the crisis in Ukraine shows that the Government’s plans to mitigate the small number of ships by increasing availability are inherently flawed. Now is the time to invest in our forces. It is disappointing that the Committee’s recommendations on the National Shipbuilding Strategy are not being taken forward. In particular, the Government’s refusal to provide the guaranteed pipeline of work that UK yards needs flies in the face of all the evidence. Strengthening our British shipbuilding industry is critical for the long-term health of our nation’s defence. The Committee is pleased that the Government will provide an annual report on ship building and availability. We will continue to monitor this area of work.”
22 Feb 22 Statement from the House of Commons Defence Committee on the deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine: We express our firm support for the government and people of Ukraine in the face of mounting aggression by Russia. Yesterday’s illegal recognition of the two separatist territories in Ukraine and the overt deployment of Russian troops into occupied regions of Ukraine is only the latest in a series of aggressive acts by President Putin’s regime. The crisis facing Europe is entirely of Russia’s making and we call on the British Government and our partners in NATO to take practical steps to help Ukraine in its principled resistance to attempts to change international boundaries by force. NATO must collectively step up its support to Ukrainian democracy in the face of any Russian invasion. Russian actions have strengthened NATO’s resolve and increased international support for Ukraine. We do not believe that the Russian people support the aggressive actions of the Russian government and we urge President Putin to listen to reason rather than to those who seek to reinstate borders which have long since ceased to exist. The UK and NATO should learn lessons from this crisis and act earlier to support countries facing aggressive threats from larger neighbours.
House of Commons and House of Lords Hansard Written Answers
Question for Ministry of Defence
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, with reference to the Defence Command Paper, published March 2021, how much of the £6.6 billion allocated for research, development, and experimentation over four years has been spent in the last year.
Answered on 23 February 2022
Supplementary estimates were published on 22 February 2022 which show our current in-year (financial year 21/22) forecast of £1.5 billion on capital research and development. The department is currently forecasting to exceed the ringfence over four years. The final annual spend will be confirmed in the Annual Report and Accounts.
Ajax Vehicles: Procurement
Question for Ministry of Defence
Wentworth and Dearne
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, by what date has the Government told NATO that the Ajax vehicle would reach full operational capacity.
Answered on 24 February 2022
In bilateral meetings at the end of January, NATO were informed that the date for AJAX’s full operating capability remains under review pending the resolution of technical challenges within the programme. The revised schedule out to full operating capability will be confirmed following resolution of these challenges. The UK will continue to be transparent with NATO about our capability development schedule.