Debates between James Heappey and Julian Lewis during the 2019 Parliament

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Heappey and Julian Lewis
Monday 28th March 2022

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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There is a constant regeneration of forces. As two battle groups are committed to Estonia, more battle groups need to embark on the training pipeline to make sure that we have contingent land forces at readiness. Similarly, ships have been deployed to the two NATO standing maritime groups and to Exercise Cold Response. We continue to generate further ships to give more choice and options thereafter, if requested by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Similarly, with the Typhoons and F-35s, a large amount has been committed as part of the initial response force, but we are generating more to have them at our disposal, if SACEUR asks for more.

The hon. Gentleman asks about the money right now. All of it seems to be being met by the Treasury; long may that continue.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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Given that we should help the Ukrainian armed forces by all legitimate means short of war, will Ministers press our NATO allies on the fact that the rather artificial distinction between defensive and offensive weaponry should be swept away when requests for equipment are received, because when a country is fighting on its own territory, having been invaded, all its weaponry is defensive?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. It suits our purpose to refer to the equipment that we are providing in the context of the defensive role it can play, but defence intelligence over the weekend reflected on the fact that the armoured column to the north-west of Kyiv has been pushed back in recent days, because small bands of determined people are manoeuvring with lethal weapons systems. That is forcing the Russians to move back into a place where they feel that they can defend themselves better. These are defensive bits of equipment. That, I think, is the right message to send to the Kremlin. If, in the ingenuity of the Ukrainian armed forces, they do something more, that is good on Ukraine.

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Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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T4. Fleeing for their lives when Kabul fell, some Afghans with UK connections entered Pakistan without documentation. Will Ministers urgently devise a practical plan safely to bring to the UK those Afghans who have entry visas to come to this country, but who are still being hunted by the Pakistani police, whose Government apparently want to hand them back to the Taliban?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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My right hon. Friend knows that I have been engaged in this matter for him for some time. I am told from my phone that the high commissioner has now reached out to explain the situation. For the benefit of the wider House, the challenge is that for those who arrive in Pakistan with eligibility to come to the UK under whichever Government scheme they are intending to use, but have not entered Pakistan legally, the Pakistan Government are taking a view on limiting our ability to process those people. We are working hard to persuade the Pakistan Government to take a different approach.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Heappey and Julian Lewis
Monday 10th January 2022

(5 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Heappey Portrait The Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey)
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Clearly the movement of any vulnerable Afghan or British national from Afghanistan to the UK requires the co-operation of a third country. In the UK’s case, this has mostly been through Pakistan and we are very grateful to our friends in Islamabad for working with us. More than 2,000 people have come to the UK since the end of Operation Pitting, and we continue to work with partners in the region to facilitate the exit of more, through more routes.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Lewis
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It is worth noting that the last speech Jack made to the House of Commons was on this very subject of standing by our friends in Afghanistan.

Given the unhealthy closeness of ties between parts of the Pakistani state and the Afghan Taliban, what assurances and assistance will the Minister give to Afghans in hiding in Pakistan, who may have been issued with UK visas, that they will not be deported back to Afghanistan by the Pakistani authorities when they present themselves at an airport, instead of being permitted to fly to the United Kingdom?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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My right hon. Friend will know that we are flirting with operational detail that may be best kept private, but he and all colleagues should reassure those with whom they are in touch that everybody who has arrived in Pakistan with the correct paperwork has been facilitated by the British high commission to leave the country successfully. The challenge, as he might expect, is for those who do not have papers, which is a very live conversation not just with Islamabad but with our friends in other capitals around the region.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Heappey and Julian Lewis
Monday 20th September 2021

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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Will the Secretary of State inform the House what Members should do when they are contacted by people who have been of assistance to our armed forces in Afghanistan but whom they have reason to believe the Taliban are hunting? Is there any help that we will be able to give them, and how should we go about approaching the Government to secure that help?

James Heappey Portrait The Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey)
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In the first instance, my right hon. Friend could advise them to go to the ARAP website and apply to the scheme, but it does no harm at all to write to me or my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in parallel, as many colleagues have done, and we are working through those cases at best speed.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Heappey and Julian Lewis
Monday 5th July 2021

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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In June 2021, UK F-35B aircraft carried out their first operational sorties in support of the counter-Daesh operations from HMS Queen Elizabeth in the eastern Mediterranean, providing a valuable contribution to Op Shader and the coalition effort. This activity has formed a key part of improving the UK’s carrier strike capability to operate closely with allies and our interoperability with the US and others. We are delighted with how those sorties have gone. The F-35B is a phenomenal aircraft launched from a magnificent aircraft carrier.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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What conclusions have our Ministers and strategists drawn from our use of military force from outside the borders of states such as Syria and Iraq that might help to prevent the re-emergence of Afghanistan as a base and a launchpad for international terrorism campaigns like those of Daesh and al-Qaeda following the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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My right hon. Friend knows from our previous exchanges on this matter that we have absolutely reserved the right to counter terrorist threats to the United Kingdom that may re-emerge in Afghanistan. He is absolutely right to point us towards an outside-in model such as that prosecuted from Cyprus in support of Operation Shader. That is very much in the thoughts of those who are planning for that eventuality in Afghanistan.

UK Defence Spending

Debate between James Heappey and Julian Lewis
Thursday 24th June 2021

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I very much agree with my hon. Friend. That is why the training and education programme within our workforce is so important. I do not think anybody in the House would argue that, in the past, MOD contractual negotiations have not gone swimmingly.

Our defence and security industrial strategy, published in March, is the first critical step in achieving all of this. It gives our sector partners more transparency and more clarity on our requirements, and provides for a more co-operative approach. Meanwhile, we will be bringing out a refreshed shipbuilding strategy to supercharge the sector. We are making sure that shipbuilding investment will double over the life of this Parliament to more than £1.7 billion a year. Our spending reforms are signalling that we are ready to create the jobs and skills that will help to level up our country, and ready to build on the talents of different areas—frigates in Scotland, satellites in Belfast, armoured vehicles in Wales and aircraft production in the north of England—to strengthen our Union.

In a competitive age, it is vital that we get our defence spending right. Failure to do this in years gone by has often cost our country dear, but we have upped our spending, transformed our approach and put in place a plan for the long term. We have aligned our resources and our ambition, and by giving our great men and women the tools they need to succeed, we are helping them to focus on what they do best: safeguarding our shores and advancing our interests throughout the world.

This week as we celebrate Armed Forces Week and look forward to Armed Forces Day, the Royal Navy has three capital ships at sea: HMS Prince of Wales in the Atlantic; HMS Albion returning from the Baltic; and HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Mediterranean. The Royal Navy is forward present in the south Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, and our submariners are maintaining the continuous at-sea deterrent beneath our oceans. The Army is part of NATO in Estonia and Ukraine, fighting violent extremism in Mali, Somalia, Nigeria and Ghana, and doing the same against Daesh in Iraq and against the Taliban, as well as keeping the Falklands secure. Our Air Force has our quick reaction alert pilots at high readiness to protect UK airspace, while Typhoon pilots in Cyprus participate in Operation Shader. As well as that, we have more Typhoon pilots in Romania on Op Biloxi and, of course, those on board the carrier with F-35.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Lewis
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I do not wish to inject a depressing note into proceedings, but the Minister mentioned the Taliban in Afghanistan. There are many of us who are very concerned about the announcement of a specific end date without a clear military support plan for the Government for which our troops have sacrificed so much. It does not sit well with the objectives that we set ourselves all those years ago in intervening in Afghanistan. I wonder whether he can say anything about that.

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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That could be the subject of an entire Backbench Business debate and I know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you are keen to move the business on. I will say two things in response to my right hon. Friend’s point. First, he gives me an opportunity to mark the enormous sacrifice of all British service personnel who have served in Afghanistan since 2003. They have done amazing things in an extraordinarily challenging country, and I know from my own experience soldiering there just how grim the grimmest days of that campaign were. He also rightly makes the point that Afghanistan has reached a crossroads. I stand by the argument that I made during the statement on our withdrawal from Afghanistan three or four weeks ago. I believe that it has forced a moment of political decision making in Afghanistan that would not otherwise have come, and I think it is right that the international community has done that, but we all, of course, share his concerns about what the future of the country might hold.

Yesterday, I had a number of opportunities to meet reservists who have been serving in the civil service throughout the last year. People have been involved in certifying vaccines and as part of distributing it around our country. To think that people have been doing that as their day job and then still finding time to serve in our armed forces at the weekend is the most amazing demonstration of just what wonderful people our reservists are. This morning, in the dead of night, in the land beneath Corsham in Wiltshire, I saw— in this case, men of Ulster, but they were representative of all our armed forces who are hugely professional—do the most incredible and amazing things in pitch black.

Being the Minister for the Armed Forces, is, in my view, the best job in Government. It is an honour to associate myself with these extraordinary people, especially as a veteran. I wish them all a happy Armed Forces Day and thank them for their service.

Afghanistan

Debate between James Heappey and Julian Lewis
Tuesday 20th April 2021

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I do not accept that we have not achieved what we were there to do in the first place. We went into Afghanistan as a direct consequence of what happened on 11 September 2001. Article 5 was invoked because an attack on one was an attack on us all, and that attack originated in Afghanistan. Since then, there has been no international terrorist attack launched from Afghanistan on the UK, the US or, indeed, any other NATO ally, so in that sense the mission was achieved.

Actually, the mission has gone far further, as we have explored in our exchanges on the urgent question: in the 20 years that we have been there, we have given the opportunity for the Afghan Government to establish and strengthen and for an Afghan civil society to flourish. I truly believe that we have set the conditions within which a political process now has the best chances of success.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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I know that the Minister will take back the very strong feelings expressed on both sides of the House that interpreters and other locally employed civilians must not be abandoned to a terrible fate at the hands of our enemies.

When the Minister says that the military process is over, does he not realise that the only thing that will prevent the Taliban from going back to the position they were in before we intervened 20 years will be the threat that if they try to overthrow the Government, they themselves will face a military consequence—if necessary, from outside the borders of the country? If he rules that out, he is basically giving them carte blanche.

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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As my right hon. Friend will know from his extensive experience of peace processes around the world, it is very likely—indeed, almost certain—that a lasting peace settlement in Afghanistan will involve the Taliban as part of the Afghan Government. It is in all our interests to support the political process as it plays out, but if there is a return to an ungoverned space that gives succour to international terrorism that is a threat to the UK homeland or the interests of our allies, we of course reserve the right to protect our interests, both unilaterally and multilaterally through NATO.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Heappey and Julian Lewis
Monday 6th July 2020

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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Again, I am comfortable responding about disinformation, which the military has an active role in countering, but misinformation is the responsibility of my colleagues in the Cabinet Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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What recent representations he has made to his counterpart in the US Administration on President Trump’s proposal to reduce the number of US troops deployed in Germany.