10 Mar 22. Defence Committee. Former UK Defence Secretary and Secretary General of NATO, Lord Robertson, to give evidence. On Tuesday 15 March, at 14.30, the Defence Committee will hold an evidence session hearing from Lord Robertson, former UK Defence Secretary and Secretary General of NATO, as part of its inquiry into the US, UK and NATO. The session will focus on the changing role of NATO following the crises in Afghanistan and now in Ukraine and the role which the UK and US play in NATO decision-making and operations.
Questions likely to be explored include where the US, UK and NATO align on their understanding of global threats and their view of how to respond, and where they diverge. The session will likely also discuss the implementation of the NATO 2030 agenda, including preserving NATO’s technical edge and investing in NATO.
14.30, 15 March:
- Lord Robertson, former UK Defence Secretary and Secretary General of NATO
10 Mar 22. Report Publication Defence Committee.
Report: “Operation Isotrope: the use of the military to counter migrant crossings”.
The Defence Committee is today publishing its report “Operation Isotrope: the use of the military to counter migrant crossings”.
Pressure on the MOD.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) budget is already inadequate. The report finds that adding responsibility for countering immigration in the Channel without a further uplift in the budget takes scarce resources from an already overstretched Department. It is unclear why this operation is not being treated as a MACA request and accordingly resourced by the Home Office. The Committee calls on the Government to set out which existing Royal Navy commitments will be given up in order to divert resources to Operation Isotrope. The Committee concludes that Operation Isotrope cannot be an open-ended deployment, occupying scarce Royal Naval vessels and personnel. The report calls for a clear end point, at which the operation will be handed back over to the Border Force.
Confusion and lack of clarity
The report finds that there is an overall lack of clarity from the Government on the announcement, which appears to be made prematurely, before the details of the policy have been finalised. The Committee questions whether announcing the policy before agreeing the detail was a wise move or rather one borne of desperation.
The Committee urges the Government to reconsider its refusal to publish the details of strategic and operational responsibility. The fact that, six weeks on from the initial announcement, the Government is still unable (or unwilling) to answer questions about this issue does not inspire confidence.
Undermining public confidence and reputation risk
The Committee states that a public disagreement between two Great Offices of State, played out in the House and on Twitter, is deeply unedifying and undermines public confidence in Government.
The Committee finds that the MOD’s engagement in Operation Isotrope potentially poses significant reputational risks. Those risks may come from a number of areas: some argue that this is not a defence task but ought to be carried out by civil authorities, that the Royal Navy has other, more pressing priorities, or that the Navy will be legally unable to be effective in the role, instead becoming a ‘taxi service’ for migrants crossing the Channel.
Vice-Chair of the Defence Committee, John Spellar MP, said: “The decision to call in the Armed Forces to address migrant crossings has far-reaching implications across Government, yet fundamental questions remain over Operation Isostrope. The Services cannot become a fourth blue light service. As we’ve made clear in recent reports, the Ministry of Defence, and especially the Royal Navy, is already over-stretched and under-resourced. An additional responsibility, particularly one as substantial as intercepting Channel migrant crossings, places huge pressure on a department with a demanding-enough brief. In order to meet the demands of this new policy, we should be under no illusion that sacrifices to defence will be made elsewhere. The Government should set clear parameters for Operation Isotrope and announce a definitive end date and handover back to the Border Force. “It is evident that, as it stands, the Border Force is in need of more equipment and resources. For the health of our defence industry, the Government should ensure that any new ships acquired by the Border Force are built and bought in Britain. Operation Isotrope threatens to tarnish the Royal Navy’s reputation, particularly in the absence of any clear communications from Government. Reputationally, the Ministry of Defence has little to gain and much to lose. The policy announcement left much to be desired. Squabbling between the Great Offices of State severely undermines public confidence in Government. Government policies should be carefully planned and considered, not rushed out to quash less-than-favourable frontpages. It is unfortunate that the Government has been less than forthcoming in providing answers to the Committee’s questions. Six weeks on from the policy announcement, Government is still either unable or unwilling to discuss Operation Isotrope. Calling in the Navy is not a quick fix to a sticky issue. The Government should prioritise outcomes over optics.”
House of Commons and House of Lords Hansard Written Answers
Armoured Fighting Vehicles
Question for Ministry of Defence
Wentworth and Dearne
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to the Answer of 7 March 2022 to Question 132161 on Armoured Fighting Vehicles, how many of the Army’s (a) Challenger tanks, (b) Warrior armoured vehicles and (c) AS90 self-propelled howitzers are not operational or available for deployment as of 7 March 2022.
Answered on 10 March 2022
In the interests of safeguarding national security it is not appropriate to place in the public domain the specific information that has been requested. As I said when I answered Question 132161 for the Rt Hon. Gentleman details of the number of vehicles in the UK Armed Forces are published on an annual basis on the Government’s website. The most recent publication can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uk-armed-forces-equipment-and-formations-2021
Question for Ministry of Defence
Shrewsbury and Atcham
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what review is being undertaken of the development of a new Main Battle Tank to replace Challenger 2 in response to the deployment of Russian armour in Ukraine.
Answered on 9 March 2022
The Challenger 3 (CR3) programme is already underway. The programme will upgrade 148 of our existing CR2 Main Battle Tanks; these upgrades include a digitalised turret, a more capable smooth bore gun with enhanced munitions, upgraded sights, upgraded armour along with additional survivability enhancements. CR3 currently is scheduled to enter service in 2027.