Chris Clarkson debates involving the Ministry of Defence during the 2019 Parliament

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Monday 25th March 2024

(2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Kate Hollern Portrait Kate Hollern (Blackburn) (Lab)
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4. What recent steps Veterans UK has taken to support veterans and their families with the cost of living.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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9. What steps his Department is taking to support veterans.

Paulette Hamilton Portrait Mrs Paulette Hamilton (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab)
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16. What recent steps Veterans UK has taken to support veterans and their families with the cost of living.

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Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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About a year ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Sarah Atherton) undertook an important and groundbreaking piece of work on behalf of female veterans and women in the armed forces. Following that, I had the honour of helping her to set up the all-party parliamentary group on women in defence, which has given a platform to female veterans and service personnel, as well as those who work in defence and the charitable sector, to talk to Members from across the House at every level. We are very much looking forward to the female veterans strategy. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that the Government remain committed not just to equal treatment for women in the armed forces, but to an equally positive experience for everyone who chooses to serve?

Andrew Murrison Portrait Dr Murrison
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I can absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. I pay tribute to him and to our hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Sarah Atherton) for all their hard work to improve the position of women in our armed forces. Women are absolutely central to the way in which defence will be going in the years ahead, as encapsulated in our target to have our armed forces be 30% female by 2030—a challenging and ambitious target. I should mention our improvements to unform policies, mentoring, flexible service, wrapround childcare, and of course our zero tolerance for unacceptable sexual behaviour, as examples of things we have done recently to improve the lived experience of women in our armed forces.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Monday 7th November 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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Every year, when I write my wreath, I write “Lest we forget,” not only because we must not forget the lessons of the war, but because we must not forget that war involves our whole population and all our armed services—not just the Army, Navy and Air Force, but groups such as the merchant navy and the women who helped and supported on the civil front. That is what we should never forget: that all of us—all our families, in different ways—stood to defend this country from fascism.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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6. What steps his Department is taking to support NATO allies in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

James Heappey Portrait The Minister for Armed Forces (James Heappey)
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The United Kingdom has provided substantial support to NATO allies. We temporarily doubled our enhanced forward presence battlegroup in Estonia, with additional enhancements to that battlegroup planned for the longer term. We deployed an aviation taskforce to Lithuania, are contributing to NATO air activity across Europe, are supporting air-to-air refuelling and have bolstered our presence in Poland, as well as Army activity in Bulgaria and Romania.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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It is absolutely right that our commitments on defence spending and deployments to NATO allies change in the light of the threat posed by increased Russian aggression and the very real threat of a war on European soil. Does my right hon. Friend agree that our increased deployments show that we remain fully committed to defending every inch of NATO territory, as well as Sweden and Finland, and that that is a clear statement of intent on behalf of this country?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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My hon. Friend invites me to make two points. First, one of Putin’s greatest failures of the past nine months is how he has reinvigorated the NATO alliance and restored the raison d’être of article 5. Secondly, through their work with many of our allies across the Baltic, the Nordic countries and the high north, our armed forces increasingly have environmental expertise on NATO’s northern flank. They are very much enjoying working with the Finns and the Swedes, every inch of whose territory, as they join NATO, is protected by article 5 just like everywhere else.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Monday 18th July 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)
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5. What steps his Department is taking to develop innovative defence technology.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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12. What steps his Department is taking to develop innovative defence technology.

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Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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As we have seen from recent events in Ukraine, air combat is incredibly important to maintaining our national security and also, as has been mentioned, to maintaining our economic security-supporting businesses, such as Middleton-based MSM in my constituency. Can my hon. Friend tell me what is being done to ensure that the RAF retains its cutting-edge capabilities?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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A brilliantly topical question, if I may say so, with Farnborough taking place this very week. I was delighted to announce last Friday at the Royal International Air Tattoo our £2.3 billion investment in ECRS mark 2 radar. This British-made world-leading electronic warfare capability will transform our combat air. It is just one example of how we will continue to invest in combat air as we develop our next generation future combat air system programme. We are currently investing some £2 billion into FCAS, with industry and international partners likewise investing in what will be an extraordinary combat capability.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Monday 10th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Ben Wallace Portrait The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Ben Wallace)
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Colleagues across the House are right to voice their concern about Russia’s ongoing aggression towards Ukraine. While we are hopeful for a positive outcome from this week’s diplomatic efforts, we are preparing for all eventualities.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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May I associate myself with the tributes to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington?

Time and again during this pandemic our armed forces have stepped up, whether by building hospitals like the new Nightingale in central Manchester, delivering vital supplies or getting jabs into arms, and they are now doing it again by supporting our world-leading booster programme. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that we should thank them for their amazing service and encourage everybody to get that booster?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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My hon. Friend points out the other job that Defence does, which is building this country’s resilience wherever one may be in the United Kingdom. It is always important to remember that our armed forces have a day job—a main job—of defending our country. When we are out of this national crisis and pandemic, it will be important to look at making sure that other people step up to cover. In the long term Defence personnel are always there, whether for floods, pandemic or other threats, and they will continue to be so. That is why it was important that we put soldiers and sailors at the heart of our Defence Command Paper.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Monday 15th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
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What we can do is ensure is that when someone gets a military qualification, it has civilian equivalents. We are doing that, and that is important because military service does give people skills for life.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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T6. Heywood-based charity Veterans into Logistics has had great success in ensuring that service leavers have the necessary skills and qualifications to take advantage of excellent paying jobs in the local economy. Does my hon. Friend agree that service leavers have a unique skillset that will be essential to ensuring our continued recovery from covid, and will he agree to meet Veterans into Logistics to see how the work it has done could be applied to other service leavers around the country?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
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I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend and Veterans into Logistics. He is right: military service does give people skills for life, and I was very pleased recently to announce an increase in the number of HGV licence places for service leavers.

Strength of the UK’s Armed Forces

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Wednesday 14th April 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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Mr Deputy Speaker,

“I hear it a lot on the Tory benches, this idea of a country that ruled the waves. Rule Britannia… I think that’s given way to a nostalgia rooted in the history of the Second World War that somehow says that we’re a small island nation that goes out punching above its weight, without ever really stopping to ask why on earth it is that we’re punching at all.”

Those are the words of the shadow Foreign Secretary, the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy), praising a pamphlet that called for the abolition of the Army, its replacement with a gender-balanced security force and the abolition of our submarines.

This volte-face to become the tub-thumping, flag-waving party of our armed forces is about as Damascene as a conversion can be. Not all that long ago, Labour Members were abstaining on giving legal protections to our service personnel while on overseas operations—those who did not actively vote against that. So today’s motion again has the whiff of insincerity about it.

I grew up on JHQ—the joint headquarters—in Rheindahlen in the 1980s, and the size of the forces and the nature of military operations then was light years away from where it is now. At the time the Berlin wall was standing, the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical threat and in 1983 the film “WarGames” depicted the science fiction scenario of an automated weapons system being hacked for a nuclear strike. Today, China joins Russia as a pre-eminent threat, the longest remaining section of the Berlin wall forms part of the East Side Gallery, several members of the former eastern bloc are now in the EU, and cyber-warfare is conventional.

The simple fact is that the world has changed; the nature of warfare has changed and therefore the way in which we configure our military must inevitably change. We do not have cavalry officers charging into battle on horseback, swords drawn; the needs of the forces today have changed.

What has not changed is the Government’s commitment to ensuring the men and women who keep us safe have the best support in terms of training, equipment and logistics, and it would be breaking faith with them for them to be under-resourced by adhering to a model designed for decades past. But we are going further, because the comprehensive review rightly focuses on the UK military’s single most important asset, its people. We are enshrining the armed forces covenant into law, we are making improvements to the justice system, and we are delivering a pay and career review to ensure military careers are as competitive as those in the private sector.

Labour stood on a hard-left manifesto which would have seen us led by a man who wanted to scrap Trident and leave NATO altogether. Its nationalist neighbours on the Opposition Benches still want to scrap Trident and wanted to tax service personnel more than in any other part of the UK. Our forces deserve our gratitude and our assurance that their Government will work to the geopolitical realities of the day, not the carping rhetoric of a bunch of crypto-Stalinists dragged up as flag-waving patriots in an attempt to hide the fact that they are hopelessly out of touch with the people whose votes they ignored for so long.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Gareth Davies Portrait Gareth Davies (Grantham and Stamford) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to support veterans.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to support veterans.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to support veterans.

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Johnny Mercer Portrait Johnny Mercer
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I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and the company he mentions. I am clear, and this Government are clear, that the single biggest factor in improving the life chances of any veteran in this country, and their family, is having a job. The Government are fundamentally changing what it means to be a veteran by offering a national insurance contribution holiday, guaranteed interviews and things like that. Working with partners in the private sector, we will make this the best country in the world to be a veteran.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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I thank the Minister for his answer. The protections in the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill have been warmly welcomed in constituencies such as mine, but obviously we also have veterans of Operation Banner, so will the Minister reiterate the Department’s intention to bring forward the same protections for people who served in Northern Ireland?

Johnny Mercer Portrait Johnny Mercer
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I am happy to reiterate again the Government’s position that those who served on Op Banner will be entitled to equal treatment from the protections that we are bringing forward on Third Reading of the overseas operations Bill tomorrow. I am clear that this is the first Government who are actually dealing with this very knotty and difficult issue. Northern Ireland veterans can be confident that we will not forget them—we will not leave them behind.

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel And Veterans) Bill

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons
Wednesday 23rd September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill 2019-21 View all Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson), who made a reasonable and moderate speech. In our debate on the Bill today, we have heard some powerful stories based on personal experience, not least from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South West (Stuart Anderson), as well as some fairly strong accusations based on the belief that the Bill will somehow undermine this country’s enviable legacy in respect of human rights.

I read John Larkin’s article, and I have to concur with the conclusion reached in relation to Felix Frankfurter’s tripartite test for deciding whether a law does what it says on the tin:

“1. Read the statute, 2. Read the statute, 3. Read the statute”.

The Bill does not give, or even approach giving, immunity to service personnel in respect of serious crimes. There is no special provision to prevent prosecutions for torture, and those who claim otherwise should be ashamed of themselves. We hear a lot of Opposition Members paying lip service to supporting our forces, and I believe that some of them genuinely do, but when asked to do so, some have demurred. Failing to support the Bill will be a serious breach of faith on their part.

What the Bill does is create a new framework for prosecutions of alleged offences that take place on overseas operations. It requires exceptional grounds for bringing such prosecutions, and factors relevant to overseas operations must be taken into account in deciding whether it is in the public interest to prosecute. Specifically, prosecutors must take into account the negative effects on mental health and decision-making capacity arising from being exposed to the overwhelming stress of continuous threat to life or commanding those who are so exposed, from seeing colleagues killed or maimed, or from the myriad other harsh realities of overseas service, which most of us in this place should be grateful for never having seen.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle Portrait Lloyd Russell-Moyle
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Can the hon. Gentleman tell me how those things are not already taken into account under current provisions in courts and when deciding to prosecute?

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, but if they were taken into account and taken seriously, we would not need legislation such as this.

What I described should dispel suggestions that the Bill will create immunity from prosecutions. The Bill only creates a test of exceptionality for prosecutions after a period of five years has expired. What is exceptional within the scope of the Bill is determined by an independent prosecutor, the Attorney General, who is still accountable to this place. It is clearly wrong to say that the Bill would forbid prosecutions of allegations of torture supported by evidence.

The Government are seeking with the Bill to provide some reassurance to service personnel that they are unlikely to be prosecuted many years on from events, where no new evidence has come forward. To paraphrase my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat), we the powerful must protect the strong—

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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Only honourable? Very honourable indeed. We the powerful must protect the strong in order to protect the weak. In welcoming the Bill, I join others in the House and veterans in Heywood and Middleton, many of whom served on Operation Banner, in encouraging the Government to move quickly to provide similar protections for those who have served in Northern Ireland, where comparable prosecutions are a serious concern. I welcome the Government’s indication that legislation will be forthcoming before the end of the year.

Jonathan Gullis Portrait Jonathan Gullis
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I concur with my hon. Friend’s viewpoint. Veterans in Stoke-on-Trent, Kidsgrove and Talke have talked relentlessly about the need to bring an end to these vexatious claims, and especially veterans who served in Northern Ireland, where the Staffordshire Regiment was strong. I want to put on record my full support for his comments; we must have this Northern Ireland legislation soon.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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My hon. Friend is entirely correct. I say with no shame that I am a law graduate, but I am extremely offended by the behaviour of some of my compatriots, and their wings need to be clipped quite severely.

A lot of people in this country are extremely grateful for the role that our armed services play. I would like to associate myself with them in saying that passing this Bill will go some way to ensuring that the dedication, patriotism and selflessness that our forces show are not undermined by those who seek profit in doing so.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Clarkson Excerpts
Monday 3rd February 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Johnny Mercer Portrait Johnny Mercer
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On recruitment, we are at just under 100% of our year-long target, which comes round in April. More people are looking to join the Army than we have seen since 2010. There is a massively positive story to tell. There are no plans to reduce the number of armed forces personnel. It is a fantastic time to join up.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Ben Wallace Portrait The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Ben Wallace)
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The MOD has provided extensive support to the cross-government response to the outbreak of coronavirus to ensure the safety of British nationals abroad. That has included medical support on the repatriation flight from Wuhan, the use of RAF Brize Norton and contingencies for handling evacuees in the UK. The Department continues to support planning across Whitehall.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. Does he agree that, after facing implacable foes armed with guns and RPGs, it is entirely wrong that our service personnel come home only to face foes armed with subpoenas and LLBs? Will he reiterate the Government’s reassurance that they will not be pursued for historical convictions when no new evidence is found?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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I assure my hon. Friend of the importance that we attach to this area, given the stress under which it puts members of the armed forces. This is the first time in my living memory that all the Front-Bench team served on operations and were members of the regular armed forces. That is why we feel it personally, as do the Government. We are determined to deal with this vexatious issue for our armed forces, which is why we will introduce measures in the next 100 days.