– in the House of Commons am 1:27 pm ar 22 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence 1:27, 22 Chwefror 2024

With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to update the House on the conflict in Ukraine, as we prepare to mark two years since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion.

Like many in this House, I remember exactly where I was on 24 February 2022. Just before sunrise, I was woken by a phone call to be told that Russia had illegally invaded Ukraine, and that a car would be outside at 6 am, headed for Cobra. After that meeting, Ministers were all asked to speak to their respective Ukrainian counterparts. At the time, I was Transport Secretary, and my arrangement was to speak via Zoom with my then opposite number, Oleksandr Kubrakov. Oleksandr, who I have subsequently got to know very well, was standing in the middle of a field outside Kyiv. I asked him about the situation, and he told me that quite frankly, he did not know how much longer the city would last. The Russian army was understood to be just kilometres away; the wolf, or in this case the Russian bear, was literally at the door; and expert opinion suggested that Kyiv would be taken in perhaps three days.

However, as this war drags into its third year, far from winning, Russia has been pushed back since those early days. Putin has achieved none of his strategic objectives, his invading force has suffered a staggering 356,000 casualties, and Ukraine has destroyed or damaged about 30% of the Russian Black sea fleet and retaken 50% of the territory that Russia stole from it.[This section has been corrected on 4 March 2024, column 9MC — read correction] (Correction)

Meanwhile, Oleksandr Kubrakov is now the Deputy Prime Minister, and his job is the restoration of Ukraine when this is over. Putin arrogantly assumed that this conflict would be over in days, and he was wrong. He reckoned without the strength of the international support that would rally to Ukraine’s cause. I am proud that, over the course of the past 730 days, Britain has been at the forefront of that global response. Our efforts, always a step ahead of our allies, have made a genuine difference. From the outset, we declassified intelligence specifically to scupper Russian false flags. Our NLAW anti-tank missiles, provided in advance of the full-scale invasion, and our Javelins helped brave Ukrainians devastate Putin’s menacing 40-mile armoured convoy, which was headed directly at Kyiv. We were the first to send main battle tanks with our Challenger squadron, plus 500 armoured vehicles and 15,000 anti-armour weapons.

All of this helped to degrade Russia’s once formidable fighting force, with Putin losses amounting to 2,700 main battle tanks, 5,300 armoured vehicles and 1,400 artillery pieces. Throughout this conflict, our 4 million rounds of small arms ammunition have allowed Ukraine to maintain a rate of fire, and recently helped keep the Russians at bay during their winter offensive. Meanwhile, the Kremlin has been unable to achieve the air superiority that it assumed it would have, in part thanks to our donation of 1,800 air defence missiles, and over 4,000 British drones have been sent to date.

This conflict has indeed demonstrated that drones are changing the face of modern warfare, and we are already learning the lessons from that. That is why, earlier today, my hon. Friend the Minister for Defence Procurement launched the UK defence drone strategy to stay ahead on this new frontier of technology—backed by at least £200 million, announced by the Prime Minister recently—making the UK the biggest drone partner for Ukraine.

Yet it is actually at sea where the allied contribution to Ukraine’s cause has been most keenly felt. Our mighty Storm Shadows and our uncrewed sea systems have helped Ukraine achieve a breakthrough in the Black sea. Not only has Russia’s fleet lost seven different surface ships plus a submarine, but a Black sea corridor has opened up for trade, allowing Ukraine to export 19 million tonnes of cargo, including 13.4 million tonnes of agricultural produce. At the end of last month, Ukrainian agricultural exports from its Black sea ports reached the highest level since the war began, far exceeding what happened under Putin’s Black sea grain initiative.

As President Zelensky said to me when I visited, the UK’s contribution has been monumental. He pointed out that, since the start of the conflict, the UK has sent almost 400 different types of capabilities to Ukraine. Together, we have shown that when Ukraine gets what it needs, it can win, which is why the UK is continuing to step up our support. Last month, the Prime Minister announced that we will be investing a further £2.5 billion in military support for Ukraine, taking our total military package so far to over £7 billion and our total support to over £12 billion, accounting for humanitarian and economic support as well.

In that spirit, today I can announce a new package of 200 Brimstone anti-tank missiles in a further boost to defend Ukraine. These missiles have previously had significant impact on the battlefield, in one instance forcing Russian forces to abandon and to retreat from an attempted crossing of a river. Members will recall that, a few days ago, President Zelensky told the Munich security conference that an “artificial deficit of weapons” will only help Russia, and he is right.

So today we are giving Ukraine more of the help it needs, inflating its capabilities so that it can defend freedom’s frontline. Other capabilities will also be coming its way. Our UK founded and administered international fund for Ukraine has pledged more than £900 million to help Ukraine plug gaps in its capabilities, delivering cutting-edge drones along with electronic warfare and mine clearance capabilities, with millions of pounds of kit to come.

We are investing not just in weapons, but in the brave personnel who serve. So far, Britain has put more than 60,000 Ukrainians through their paces here in the UK, but Operation Interflex, our main training effort, is going to expand even further. I am delighted to announce that Kosovo and Estonia have joined us, Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Romania in all training Ukrainian troops here in Britain. Together, we will train a further 10,000 in the first half of 2024.

Meanwhile, we are building capability coalitions. Alongside Norway, we are leading a maritime capability coalition, and we have been joined by a dozen other countries in this enterprise. This is about mine detection drones, raiding craft and Sea King helicopters, which have already been sent its way, so that Ukraine can build its navy and defend its sovereign waters.

Last week, I met my NATO counterparts in Brussels, and I announced that, together with Latvia, we would lead the drone coalition. That will allow us to scale up and streamline the west’s provision of miniature first-person view—FPV—drones to Ukraine, while supporting the establishment of a drone school for Ukrainian operators and a test range, as well as developing AI swarm drone technology, which will surely be critical in the next phase of this war. Britain has earmarked some £200 million to procure and produce long-range strike and sea drones, and become Ukraine’s largest supplier of drones.

Yet this is far from the summit of our ambitions. In December, we set up a new taskforce to build a strong defence industrial partnership with Ukraine, ensuring that Ukraine can sustain the fight for years to come. In January, the Prime Minister signed the historic security co-operation agreement. This is the start of a 100-year alliance that we are building with our Ukrainian friends. Once again, it is the United Kingdom that has signed the first such agreement, with welcome signings from France and Germany having followed.

The Ukrainians have the will and they have the skills, and they have shown that if they are given the tools, they can do the job, but their need today remains particularly urgent. Russia is continuing to attack along almost the entire frontline, only recently decimating and then capturing the eastern town of Avdiivka. The Kremlin continues to callously strike at civilian targets, most recently hitting a hospital in Selydove. Putin is making no secret whatsoever of being in this for the long term. Russia’s economy has indeed shifted on to a full-time war footing, spending some 30% of its federal expenditure on its defence—a nominal increase of almost 70% just on last year alone.

If the cruel death of the remarkable, brave Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has taught us anything, it is that Putin’s victory is something that none of us can afford. The tyrant of the Kremlin is determined simply to wait out the west. He believes that we lack the stomach for the fight, and we must show him that we are wrong. This House may not be united on all matters, as we have seen in the past 24 hours, but we are united on one thing: our support for Ukraine. So the UK will continue to double down on that support, and all freedom-loving countries must be compelled to do the same. This year will be make or break for Ukraine, so it is time for the west and all civilised nations to step up and give Ukraine the backing it needs.

Two years ago, when I spoke to an anxious Oleksandr Kubrakov, who had retreated to that field outside Kyiv, he did not know what would happen to Ukraine. Now, entering the third year of this conflict, it is remarkable to see that Ukrainians remain in full fight. I know that the whole House will join me in saying that the UK will not stop supporting the brave Ukrainians, our friends, until they have won and have victory.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee, Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee

Just for the record, Secretary of State, I think you may have misspoken —those on the Front Bench were smiling. I think you intended to say, “we must show him that he is wrong”, but I believe you said, “we are wrong.”

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

Perhaps I may take this opportunity to correct the “we” to “he”, for the avoidance of doubt.

Photo of John Healey John Healey Shadow Secretary of State for Defence 1:40, 22 Chwefror 2024

I thank the Defence Secretary for his statement. This is his first statement on Ukraine, and he could not have chosen a more important moment, as we mark two years since President Putin’s brutal, illegal invasion began; two years, in which cities have been smashed, hospitals hit by missiles, power plants bombed, civilians raped and children abducted to Russia; two years of war in Europe that has shattered wider European security. His statement today gives this House, on behalf of the British public, a chance to show that the UK is totally united and committed in support for Ukraine, as it fights for its freedoms, its territorial integrity, and its right as a democratic country to decide its own future.

The UK will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes to win. We know that is the strong message that the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary convey to Ukraine. When the Labour leader met President Zelensky in Kyiv last year, he said that, on military help for Ukraine and on reinforcing NATO allies, the UK Government have had, and will continue to have, the fullest Labour support. Two years on, I am proud that the UK continues to be united on Ukraine; proud that British families have opened up their homes to Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s war; and proud that people across Britain in all walks of life have organised donations and deliveries of assistance to Ukraine.

The Ukrainians are fighting with huge courage, the military and civilians alike. They have regained half the territory taken by Putin and disabled his Black sea fleet. They have developed new weapons at record speed. But Russia is far from a spent force, and if Putin wins he will not stop at Ukraine. The Defence Secretary mentioned Avdiivka, and the forced Ukrainian withdrawal there is a warning to the west. They had the heart to fight but they did not have the ammunition. So as Russia steps up its war effort, as the Defence Secretary said, so must we step up UK support. Putin is not just fighting on the battlefield; this is a war on the diplomatic front, the economic front and the industrial front—a struggle on all fronts against Russian aggression. We need a broad UK plan to help defend Ukraine and defeat Putin.

First, we must ramp up military support throughout 2024 and beyond by implementing the UK agreement, extending UK training and creating a clear path for Ukraine’s NATO membership. Secondly, we must reboot the diplomatic drive to maintain western unity and support and hold Putin to account, by working through the G7, the UN, NATO, the International Criminal Court and a special tribunal for the crime of aggression. Thirdly, we must take immediate action against wider Russian aggression by enforcing sanctions, closing loopholes in the supply chain and reinforcing NATO allies on the Russian border. Fourthly, we must boost UK industrial production by fast-tracking in full the spring Budget’s £2 billion to restock UK armed forces and Ukraine. Fifthly, we must get ready for Ukraine’s recovery with more de-mining help, and enabling seized or frozen Russian state assets to be used for the reconstruction of Ukraine.

Defence of the UK starts in Ukraine, and I am proud of UK leadership on Ukraine. I want still to be proud in six months’ time, so may I press the Defence Secretary? We welcomed the extra 200 Brimstone antitank missiles. Will he now go beyond these ad hoc announcements and set out a fuller military aid action plan? We welcomed the £2.5 billion for 2024. Will every pound be spent on Ukraine, and not on UK operational costs at NATO bases? We strongly endorsed the UK-Ukraine agreement on security co-operation. Will he now follow that up with an implementation plan, so that Ukraine gets the urgent and sustained help it needs? Finally, we backed the Ukrainian homes and visa schemes. Will the Government rethink their decision this week, with no consultation and no notice, to close the family visa scheme? In conclusion, Ukrainians are watching elections around the world very closely this year. That is why when he met President Zelensky, the Labour leader pledged on behalf of Britain:

“There could be a change in Government this year, but there will be no change in Britain’s resolve to stand with Ukraine, confront Russian aggression and pursue Putin for his war crimes.

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his support, and indeed all Members of this House from all parties, for the tremendous support that Ukraine has experienced from this Parliament. As he said, whatever else our divisions, no one should be in any doubt about the united voice with which we speak on this subject. He is right to mention the exceptional work done with training. I imagine he has seen some of the Interflex training, and there is no greater pride than seeing, with other world leaders, their own trainers training here in the UK. We can be truly proud of that and, as I mentioned, we will be doing more of it.

The right hon. Gentleman is also right about NATO membership as the ultimate path for Ukraine. We have the 75th anniversary of NATO coming up in summer in Washington D.C., and it is important that the west helps to set that path for Ukraine’s membership even more firmly. He will be pleased to hear that my right hon. Friend the Attorney General is working proactively on the legal matters, as are the Chancellor, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on sanctions, which will only work, as recent reporting shows, if they are done in a collective manner, including with the G7 and other bodies.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about a military action plan. In conversations with my opposite number, Minister Umerov, as well as President Zelensky and others, what they want is for us to work privately with them on the £2.5 billion, and that is what we are doing. There are strategic reasons for not producing a published plan on that. We will release information to the House as appropriate, but there are military reasons to do it rather differently on this occasion. I reassure the right hon. Gentleman that not only do we spend the published amount, but we go over and above that in a variety of different ways.

The right hon. Gentleman is right about the importance of the partnership co-operation agreement, and we will be publishing a series of follow-ups. For example, one measure is to teach English as the second language for Ukraine, and I know from talking to my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary that 100 universities are in the process of being linked to Ukrainian institutions to press that plan forward, and much else besides is involved with that agreement on security co-operation.

Lastly, the shadow Secretary of State mentions the family visa scheme for Ukrainians. As he knows, I had a Ukrainian family of three and a dog live with us for a year after the invasion, and they are still living in this country. They are keen to return home to build Ukraine back when this war ends. In the meantime, this Government have put in place further visa arrangements, which, if not the most generous in the world, are among them. I know from speaking to the family who lived with me that they were delighted with that statement by the Home Secretary recently.

Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois Ceidwadwyr, Rayleigh and Wickford

The Defence Secretary has recently drawn parallels with the 1930s. He spoke powerfully at Lancaster House about our transition from a post-war world to a pre-war one. In a similar vein, I was part of a Conservative Friends of Ukraine delegation to Congress recently to lobby Republican congressmen to support the aid package. In one such conversation, a Republican perfectly reasonably asked me, “Why should I tell the people of my district to send their taxpayer dollars to Ukraine?”, to which I humbly replied, “Because as a member of NATO, it is ultimately cheaper than sending your sons and daughters.” In that context, does the Defence Secretary agree that while we must respect American domestic politics—it is not for us to tell them what to do—this, again, is a time for the new world in all its power and might to come to the rescue and liberation of the old?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising that matter. I am aware of his work in Congress—in fact, I think we were there at roughly the same time last month—and his clear explanations and lobbying of Congress to help release that money to Ukraine. His point is absolutely right: the aid package is in America’s interest not just to come to the rescue of Europe but because other despotic leaders, other autocrats and other regimes of any type will be looking at whether we simply lose and give up because we get bored of the fight and then walk away. They will draw conclusions about that and whether they can always take on the red line of the west and the no-go area if all they have to do is wait it out. This is why my right hon. Friend is right to say that it is indubitably in America’s interest to step in, because otherwise they will find it far more expensive in the future, perhaps in other parts of the world, to defend the world order.

Photo of Martin Docherty Martin Docherty Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence)

Let me thank the Secretary of State for prior sight of his statement and reiterate the unequivocal support of SNP Members for the defence and, we hope, liberation of the rest of Ukraine in its battle against Vladimir Putin. I know he recognises that part of being an Opposition party is to highlight where we think there may be improvements, and I will highlight supply chain issues, which were alluded to by the shadow Defence Secretary.

Today, Ed Conway of Sky has been highlighting issues around sanction-busting exports from the UK, critically around heavy materials, notably car exports, saying,

“let's imagine you’re a Russian unit needing weapons. Imagine you rely on a certain input or tool from the UK. Back in the past you’d get it directly. But you can’t anymore.”

One solution that Ed alludes to is the setting up of shell companies in friendly Caucasus states, and notably in Kyrgyzstan. He says that since the sanctions, implemented not only by the UK, but other allies, exports from the UK to Kyrgyzstan of the very materials that those frontline Russian troops need have increased by more than 1,100%. Can the Secretary of State advise the House whether he will take that information away, engage with his Cabinet colleagues and write to me or the Defence Committee about how the Government will seek to block off those sanction-busting processes? Will he highlight to those companies that are participating that they are undermining the democratic value of the future Ukrainian nation?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the support from the SNP, adding to the weight of support from this House for Ukraine, and for raising that issue. I read at length the excellent thread from Ed Conway this morning talking about this issue. It is the case that when sanctions are set up, initially they tend to work, but then, rather like water flowing around a boulder in the stream, people will eventually work their way around and find another route to market. It is important that we continuously look at and assess whether those sanctions are doing the thing we initially intended them to do. As Ed Conway points out in the thread, this is an international problem. He takes the UK as an example, but extends it out and says that it is happening elsewhere, too. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the British Government will be taking a close look at what is happening in reality. This is clearly a Treasury and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office lead, but I undertake to work with them, and I thank him for raising the issue.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on National Policy Statements, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on National Policy Statements, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on Scrutiny of Strategic Thinking in Government, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on Scrutiny of Strategic Thinking in Government

Can my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to emphasise that the light attendance in the House this afternoon is not an indication of any lack of resolve among Members or any of the political parties to stand up to President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which the Prime Minister recently described in the Liaison Committee as an “existential” threat to European and transatlantic security? Can the Secretary of State also share with the House whether he believes there is evidence of an emboldening of Russian aggression, particularly towards Moldova, perhaps being threatened from Belarus, which appears to be preparing for an entry into this conflict? Can he shed any light on that?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

On his first point, my hon. Friend is right. It is a Thursday, and many Members will have returned to their constituencies, but the Russian viewership of the Chamber should not mistake the level of attendance with the level of interest. The reason that people have felt confident to return to their constituencies is that they know there is no dispute in this House, as we have heard from all sides, in our solid, iron resolve for Ukraine.

On the wider picture, Members will see the news. They understand that with Putin, he simply murders those who stand up to him. He will go to any lengths. He turns his entire economy on to a war footing, and he tries to work with others to further his means, whether that is Belarus at the beginning or more recently North Korea, Iran and other pariah states. I had better not go into the detailed intelligence on the Floor of the House, although I am sure more briefing can be announced. It simply adds to the overall need for us to stick together—not just in this House, but with the civilised countries of the world—and ensure that Putin understands that no matter how long he carries on, we will always be there to help defend Ukraine.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Llafur, Warley

The Defence Secretary was certainly in full Duracell bunny mode today, but it is clear that Britain and this Government have much to be proud of in our response to the Ukraine crisis. It was also clear, however, that right from the outset of the invasion it would be an industrial munitions war, harking back to the last century. While Russia has got itself on to a full war economy footing, our Government machine frankly seems to have failed to mobilise British industry in the same way. To highlight that, I will pose a simple question. Why did it take from February 2022 to July 2023 to place the vital order for additional, desperately needed artillery shells?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

I do not entirely agree with the right hon. Member’s characterisation of the UK response in terms of deindustrialisation. I do agree that it is difficult overall to suddenly ramp up from whatever level we are producing at on a non-war footing, but it is heartening to know—I think this is right, but it is off the top of my head; I will correct the figures if I have got it wrong—that our munitions and missile production is now eight times the level it was before the war, so we have certainly stepped up.[This section has been corrected on 4 March 2024, column 10MC — read correction] (Correction)

In addition, we are carrying out rounds of procurement through the international fund for Ukraine, which we established and which is still receiving new contributions. I am delighted that Australia has just donated $50 million to that fund. I think—again, this is off the top of my head—there have been 27 rounds of contract procurement so far. I am not familiar with the particular case that the right hon. Member cited, so I will write back to him on the detail, but it is encouraging that we have been able to set up a mechanism so that other countries that have not had our scale of ambition and footprint on Ukraine can put in their own money, so that we can buy in coalition on their behalf. We will continue to do that.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Ceidwadwyr, Crawley

Yesterday, I and several other members of the Foreign Affairs Committee were in Warsaw to speak to members of the Polish Government and British military and security officials based in that country. Will the Secretary of State join me in paying tribute to British military officers for the work they are doing in supporting Ukraine and other allies such as Poland and the Baltic states? Will he comment on the increase in Russian air incursions into NATO airspace? Sadly, last year missile incursions killed two people, and missile incursions have taken place in recent weeks. What can we do to strengthen air defences not only to defend Ukraine against Russia’s aggression, but to ensure that democracy in Europe is strengthened?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

I am delighted that my hon. Friend was in Poland yesterday. The Poles have been right on the frontline next to Ukraine on this. They have been tremendous in their support for Ukraine and in investing in their own defence sector. He is right to highlight British military assistance, which comes in many different forms, much of which we cannot discuss, but it has certainly assisted in Poland and elsewhere in the region. He will be pleased to hear that we also contributed to Poland’s own defence: before its election, we provided two Typhoons to prevent escalation and exacerbation by Putin. We also provide other air defence mechanisms to Poland. I would be happy to provide him with a further briefing.

Photo of Richard Foord Richard Foord Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

On behalf of the Liberal Democrats, I very much thank the Government for the statement and offer our wholehearted support for it. This week, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev asked the rhetorical question, “Where to stop?” Medvedev, who is now deputy head of Russia’s security council, answered, “I don’t know.” He continued:

“Will it be Kiev? Yes, probably it should be Kiev.”

He went on to make an outlandish claim that there is a threat to the Russian Federation from Kyiv, and he made outrageous threats, including to the UK. Will the Defence Secretary first condemn the ambiguity of Medvedev’s rhetoric on Russia’s ambitions? Secondly, will he rebut the wild claim that the Russian Federation is somehow threatened? Thirdly, will he ask his counterparts in Delhi and Beijing to urge Medvedev to halt his nuclear sabre rattling?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

The hon. Member is absolutely right to point out those irresponsible comments, which very much follow in the footsteps of what Putin goes around saying. It is completely irresponsible in the modern era to have world leaders going about threatening others. There is absolutely no justification whatsoever for an autocratic state or any state walking into a demographic neighbour and claiming it as its own. To go further than that and to start threatening other states on a trumped-up charge that NATO somehow wishes to do the same in reverse is, as the whole House will know, complete fiction. NATO has no desire to do anything but defend the existing borders. That is why NATO is no threat whatsoever to Moscow.

Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Clean Power and Consumers)

I welcome the Defence Secretary’s statement. He is right that the House is united in its support for Ukraine. We should be proud of the UK armed forces personnel who have trained so many Ukrainian recruits. I think he said earlier that there will be another 10,000 in the first half of the year, which is obviously welcome. Will he take the opportunity to confirm that our vital training programme will not stop in the summer but will continue for as long as it takes for Ukraine to win the war?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

We are always looking at the best ways to train people. My expectation is that that training will continue, but we are always looking at how to improve it further. I mentioned that our friends from Estonia and Latvia are joining us in the training, so in a sense it continues to expand. We always want to ensure that we are providing training that is actually needed. It is extraordinary to know that having had that training in the UK dramatically improves people’s chances when they get to the frontline towards the east of Ukraine. We will always want to do more. The hon. Member is right to point out that the figure was 10,000 for the first half of the year, and the plans will be assessed from there on.

Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Chair, Business and Trade Committee, Chair, Business and Trade Committee, Chair, Business and Trade Sub-Committee on National Security and Investment, Chair, Business and Trade Sub-Committee on National Security and Investment

May I urge the Secretary of State to step up pressure on his colleagues to shut down sanctions evasion? The Business and Trade Committee recently took evidence from the National Crime Agency, which said that the UK is still one of the world’s favourite places for economic crime and sanctions evasion. Companies House and the proposed new identification regime were widely criticised by the stakeholders we heard from. Of course, we also have the whacking great loophole called limited partnerships, which the Government are not currently proposing measures to shut down. We must shut down the spigots of cash that are funding Putin’s war machine, and we can play a role in that in the UK as well.

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about that. As I said, after a period of time, sanctions become holed, and people can get around them and through them. I have always taken a particularly tough line on the basic principle that people should not be friends with Putin and be able to benefit from that. Indeed, at least one yacht and a couple of private jets are grounded as a result of measures I took in the early days of the war when I was Transport Secretary.

The right hon. Gentleman made a wider point on seizing assets. The way to do that and make it work is through the G7 and international partners, so that it is completely solid. Again, as in many other areas, we will try to lead that debate. As I have promised the House before, we will also look at what may have worked initially but now is not working. I respect the work that he has been doing on it, and I will certainly encourage my colleagues in government to follow through.