Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 30th January 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Gareth Davies Portrait Gareth Davies (Grantham and Stamford) (Con)
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18. What steps his Department is taking to develop innovative defence technology.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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20. What steps his Department is taking to develop innovative defence technology.

Alex Chalk Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Alex Chalk)
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The Ministry of Defence works closely with British industry and academia, including small and medium-sized enterprises, to identify and invest in innovative technologies that address our most pressing capability challenges, as well as publishing our future priorities to incentivise investment. We are already testing and deploying these technologies.

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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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That was served up well!

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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If we want to keep our country safe we need to work with our allies to ensure that we remain at the forefront of the latest developments in defence technology. Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm that our new partnership with Japan and Italy will involve collaborating in areas such as weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles, and not just on fighter jets?

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk
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The ambition of this truly international programme is principally to deliver a cutting-edge fighter aircraft, providing a credible deterrent to future threats. As my hon. Friend knows, this is a system of systems, and it is likely to include uncrewed aircraft, new sensors, weapons, advanced data systems and secure networks. Those wider capabilities may be developed together with our wider partners, or with our existing partners in that endeavour. We will continue to explore system opportunities between both our core partnership and more widely.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 21st February 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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The right hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the fragility in the submarine supply chain, which concerns not just us but the United States, and indeed all those involved. These are highly complex boats, and keeping them maintained and ensuring that they are also a skill base is a real challenge for us all. That is why we have invested in a record number of apprentices, and have increased much of the necessary funding. As the right hon. Gentleman suggests, AUKUS must be not only about capacity-building and capability in themselves, but about how the United Kingdom and the United States industrial base can assist, support and develop those capabilities in Australia. It cannot be done on its own; it has to be done with all of us.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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14. What assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of the defence space strategy.

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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Over and above the £5 billion already committed to satellite communications, we are investing an additional £1.5 billion in space capabilities. The defence space strategy sets out our focus on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, satellite communications, space domain awareness and space commander control. This clear strategic direction has been welcomed by industry and allies alike.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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Space, in all its guises, presents us with an unparalleled opportunity to drive British science and technical innovation, create well-paid and rewarding jobs, boost our economy, and above all defend ourselves. Can my hon. Friend expand on what he has said, and tell the House what the MOD is doing to ensure that we deliver all those opportunities?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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My hon. Friend is correct in every respect. That additional £1.5 billion of investment implies very significant space R&D and the jobs, skills and expertise that go with it. It includes investment in things such as ISTARI, our ISR programme, It also includes innovation spending, as part of the £1.5 billion package, and programmes such as Minerva. Through that investment, we are not only ensuring that we meet the threats of the future, but helping to build capability, expertise, skills and jobs that will serve defence and the wider civil space programme.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 24th May 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Let me say to the Secretary of State and the shadow Secretary of State that topicals are meant to be short and punchy, not lengthy debates. Can they both get it right for next time? I now come to Mr Metcalfe, who will definitely get it right.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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Thank you Mr Speaker. I welcome the recent deployment of Royal Navy offshore patrol vessels to Jersey, to conduct maritime security patrols. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that quick response demonstrates the importance of having our Royal Navy vessels more continuously deployed at sea?

James Heappey Portrait The Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey)
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I certainly do. Offshore patrol vessels are an extraordinarily versatile platform. Batch 1 OPVs, which are mostly responsible for homeland defence, are at high readiness and are called out for all sorts of reasons, from Jersey, to escorting vessels from other nations through our waters. Batch 2 OPVs, a precursor to the arrival of the Type 31, already operate in the south Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. They will soon be joined by further vessels in the Indo-Pacific, demonstrating the forward presence concept, which will have huge utility in the years ahead.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Johnny Mercer Portrait Johnny Mercer
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I want to be clear with the hon. Lady. A rationalisation and professionalism is definitely currently going on in the veterans’ care charity sector, and in respect of many aspects that needed to happen. My concern is veterans, the provision for them and what it looks like to the veteran. We are working hard to bring together seamlessly the panoply of care, whether it is in the third sector or statutory provision, and we will get there. There are financial challenges, but I am confident that we can meet them and that this country will be the best place in the world to be an armed forces veteran.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to protect veterans from vexatious legal claims.

Johnny Mercer Portrait The Minister for Defence People and Veterans (Johnny Mercer)
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We are unstinting in our admiration of and gratitude for our armed forces, who perform exceptional feats in incredibly difficult circumstances to protect this country. We rightly expect the highest standards of our service personnel, and we owe them justice and fairness. We have introduced the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill to help to tackle vexatious claims and end the cycle of re-investigations against our armed forces personnel and veterans. The Bill’s Third Reading and Report stage are tomorrow.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe [V]
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I thank my hon. Friend for his response. Can he give me and the whole House assurances that veterans’ rights to claim against the MOD will in turn remain protected?

Johnny Mercer Portrait Johnny Mercer
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Yes. The majority of personal injury and clinical negligence claims by service personnel and veterans against the MOD do not relate directly to overseas operations so will be unaffected by the Bill. Veterans will still be able to bring claims relating to overseas operations against the MOD within a reasonable timeframe. For example, in the event of a late diagnosis, service personnel and veterans will be able to bring personal injury claims against the MOD for up to six years from their date of knowledge.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 21st October 2019

(4 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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The hon. Gentleman is tempting me to comment on an ongoing competition. As he knows, if we were to prejudice that competition, both the UK taxpayer and potentially UK industry would be at risk of being sued by the other consortium. The Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Anne-Marie Trevelyan), whom I welcome to my team, was not the Minister at the time of that competition, so to hold her to account in that way is unfair.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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8. What steps his Department is taking to maintain the capabilities of UK defence manufacturing.

Andrew Lewer Portrait Andrew Lewer (Northampton South) (Con)
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10. What steps his Department is taking to maintain the capabilities of UK defence manufacturing.

Ben Wallace Portrait The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Ben Wallace)
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To help sustain future capabilities we have published strategies for shipbuilding and combat air and refreshed our defence industrial policy with a new emphasis on supporting growth and competitiveness, which are central to our procurement programmes, including, for example, the Type 31 frigate and Tempest.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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The UK has a world-beating defence industry that is dependent on high-value design. How is the Department supporting the Government’s “Engineering: Take a Closer Look” campaign to ensure that people understand how vital engineering is to our defence industry?

Defence

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 18th February 2019

(5 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Ellwood
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I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s service and the work that he has done in this area. I would not go so far as to say that the new FAM is causing the problems that he suggests. It needs to be rolled out faster. Those who are serving want to be able to get on the housing ladder, for example, and perhaps invest in a property outside the wire. We want to give individuals three options—to stay inside the garrison, which they might want to do when they sign up; to rent a property outside the wire; or to invest in a property, perhaps using the Help to Buy scheme, for example. My hon. Friend is right that it has taken longer than we wanted to roll out the pilot schemes to test the model, and I hope that will happen in the near future.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend is right to talk about improving pay, conditions and accommodation. In addition, it is important that we collectively continue to say thank you and appreciate the work that our armed forces do. Will he join me in thanking the Royal Anglian Regiment, which happens to have the freedom of the town of Basildon, and all my constituents who serve in the regiment and across our armed services more widely?

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Ellwood
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I am more than happy to pay tribute to the Royal Anglian Regiment. I served in the Royal Green Jackets, which was another infantry regiment—it is now the Rifles, I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Leo Docherty), who served in the Scots Guards. The Anglians show the benefit of having a local relationship and recruiting from the community. That is how the Army has developed in strength, with reservist communities and so forth. I am very happy to join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to that regiment.

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Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)
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Will the Minister give way?

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Ellwood
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I am pleased that we are holding this debate in the Chamber, because I have never had such interest when we discuss these annual updates of support for the armed forces up in Committee Room 14.

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Ellwood
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. The chances are that when someone joins the armed forces, they are single and have little responsibility. As they move ahead in life, they are likely to develop a family and so forth, and therefore their accommodation requirements will change. The armed forces must accept and be ready for that. That is the single issue that the families federations state as the reason for people choosing to leave, and it needs addressing; there is no doubt about it.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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Seeing as we are discussing this important issue on the Floor of the House, it might be worth speaking to a wider audience and reminding people that when they join the armed forces as a young person, the training they receive is often through the formal provision of an apprenticeship. Our military services are one of the biggest providers of apprenticeships in the country, and people leave the services with full and proper qualifications.

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Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Ellwood
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We have touched on the long-established reputation of our armed forces in defending not just our shores, but our values. At this juncture, I would comment on how the world is changing rapidly. It is getting more dangerous and it is getting more complex. The threats are more diverse than ever before. I would argue that if the instability we are seeing is unchecked, it will become the norm. These are threats not just from a man-made perspective—extremism and resurgent nations, as well as cyber-security—but from climate change. We are reaching or testing the limits of what our fragile planet can actually do, and if we do not act soon, there will be huge consequences with migration, the movement of people and so forth, as well as the stockpiling of food and a threat even to our ability to grow the crops we actually need.

The world is changing fast and it requires a collective effort if we are to meet some of these challenges. Britain has been a nation that again and again steps forward to lead the way—not always to do the heavy lifting, but certainly to show leadership. I certainly believe that, as I say, this is an important juncture at which to regroup and look at the rules—established mostly through Bretton Woods, after the second world war—that are now out of date. They need to be reviewed to recognise the new world that we actually face, before this becomes the norm and we are unable to change and set the standards for the next number of years.

The rate of change and level of uncertainty are outpacing governance and unity. The old rules need to be updated, and, because of human empowerment, it is easier for individuals to have greater access to means of causing harm, through computers and so forth.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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My right hon. Friend is painting a picture of the complexity and severity of the challenges we face. That threat has changed over the years, to the point at which the level of skill required across a broad range of disciplines is growing. I was fortunate enough to be the envoy for the Year of Engineering last year and saw how our armed services use engineers both on the ground and behind the scenes to tackle some of those threats, particularly on cyber-security. Will he therefore join me in promoting engineering within the armed services as a way of meeting and tackling the challenges that he is talking about?

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Ellwood
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I fully concur. It was a pleasure to participate in the Year of engineering last year. It is important that we encourage STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and maths—and we are doing that, as was mentioned earlier, through our apprenticeship schemes. The skillsets that even the basic infanteer requires from a technology perspective are enormous, and so different from when I served. It is absolutely important, through schooling, apprenticeships and all aspects of our armed forces, that we encourage these things.

I was talking about the fact that the tried and tested diplomatic instruments and conventions that we have relied on are no longer fit for purpose and about the importance of the fact that we are now threatened with greater human empowerment through technology.

It used to be said that atomic weapons were the biggest threat we faced. I was moved by a book written by David Sanger, a New York journalist and a specialist in cyber-warfare. He now says that cyber-warfare has taken over as the biggest threat that we face, because attacks can be conducted state on state and there are no repercussions and no rules. There is no Geneva convention to say, for example, that elections or hospitals are out of bounds for a cyber-security attack. There are no repercussions or recognition above board of what the penalty or punishment is, or even of what rules a cyber-security attack breaks.

This is more dangerous because, unlike with nuclear weapons, it is not just states that use such attacks—any individual can. That shows the requirements and the pressures of what our armed forces are up against in today’s changing world, with accelerating technological advancement, the increasing environment of stress that I mentioned and, of course, the change in population growths and habitats.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 9th July 2018

(5 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton Portrait Mark Lancaster
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Well, this seems to be a monthly exchange on the same subject, with the same question and, I fear, with same answer forthcoming: there are currently no plans to change the end-of-service dates for HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, which are 2033 and 2034.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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9. What estimate he has made of the number of jobs that are dependent on the UK’s status as a tier 1 nation.

Guto Bebb Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Guto Bebb)
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The UK has always been and will always be a tier 1 military power, supported by a world-class defence industry. Last year, we spent £18.7 billion with UK industry and commerce, directly supporting 123,000 jobs throughout the United Kingdom. Through the modernising defence programme we are considering how to grow even further the already substantial contribution that defence makes to UK prosperity.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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Does the Minister agree that the excellent news of the BAE Systems contract to sell Type 26 frigates to Australia has come about in part because our Royal Navy has decided to buy them, and the rest of the world knows that, as a tier 1 military nation, we buy the best and most advanced equipment?

Guto Bebb Portrait Guto Bebb
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. Quite clearly the capability of the Type 26 was understood and appreciated by our Australian counterparts, but the key element was the fact that the Royal Navy is committed to this platform as our future anti-submarine warfare frigate. There is no doubt that my hon. Friend is absolutely right that when the Royal Navy shows confidence in a piece of equipment, the rest of the world takes note.

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Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Ellwood
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The cadet programme is one of the huge success stories in Britain, with over 400 cadet units operating throughout the country. I join with the hon. Lady in paying tribute to what they do to advance an interest in the armed forces and the education of our young.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for his personal support for the Year of Engineering and for all his Department is doing to create inspirational and exciting experiences that demonstrate what it is to be an engineer in the military. Will he pass on my thanks to all those involved in making that happen?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
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I most certainly will. We celebrate 100 years of the Royal Air Force, which plays a key part in driving technological development and inspiring so many young people to enter a career in engineering. Seeing amazing aeroplanes designed and flown is an inspiration for many future generations.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 23rd October 2017

(6 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Fallon Portrait Sir Michael Fallon
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Like any large organisation, we take precautions against movements in the currency. We continue to ensure that we get the best value for money from all parts of our equipment programme.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Michael Fallon Portrait The Secretary of State for Defence (Sir Michael Fallon)
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The Government have a strong record of supporting our armed forces and delivering a growing defence budget. Since July, we have led the response to Hurricane Irma, published a new national shipbuilding strategy, supported the defeat of Daesh in Raqqa and continued to lead in NATO. I congratulate all those service personnel and veterans who competed so well in the recent Invictus games.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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Growing the supply of engineers is one way in which the Government can support both the armed forces and the defence industry. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what action his Department is taking to support next year’s Year of Engineering to ensure that we inspire the next generation of engineers?

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 23rd November 2015

(8 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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17. What contribution the UK is making to international efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL.

Michael Fallon Portrait The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon)
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The United Kingdom is already making a significant contribution to the international counter-ISIL coalition, with strike aircraft, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and in helping to train Iraqi forces. In addition to the intelligence co-operation and border security support we have offered to France, the House will wish to know that yesterday I authorised the use of RAF Akrotiri as a diversion airfield for French aircraft striking in Syria.

Michael Fallon Portrait Michael Fallon
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I agree with my hon. Friend. We should not leave the fight against ISIL to French, American or Australian aircraft. While we are working through the Vienna talks, which aim to help to establish an inclusive transitional government to end the civil war and build more security for the Sunni areas of Syria, that should not either delay or deter us from degrading ISIL in eastern Syria, from where ISIL is directing the war in its region and directly threatening us.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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The Chief of the Defence Staff has said that not striking ISIL in its heartland in Syria is like a football team trying to win a match without entering the opposition’s half. Is it not long overdue that we pushed up the pitch and stopped defending our goal line?

Michael Fallon Portrait Michael Fallon
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Yes. ISIL does not recognise the border between Iraq and Syria, and moves between both while the RAF can currently strike only in Iraq. It is illogical for us to be hitting ISIL targets in Iraq, while not targeting ISIL’s core leadership, its lines of communication and its oil revenue base, which are all to be found in Syria.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 23rd February 2015

(9 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mark Francois Portrait Mr Francois
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I thank the Chairman of the Select Committee for his additional suggestion. I said earlier that the idea might have merit, and we are considering as one specific option the possibility of a reserve company that would inherit many of the proud traditions of Sikh regiments in the British Army going back many years. My hon. Friend the Minister responsible for the reserves is leading on that aspect and he, too, remains in contact with the CGS on the matter.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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7. What steps his Department is taking to assist Iraqi forces in countering ISIL.

Mary Macleod Portrait Mary Macleod (Brentford and Isleworth) (Con)
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9. What steps his Department is taking to assist Iraqi forces in countering ISIL.

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Michael Fallon Portrait The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon)
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We are making a major contribution to the coalition. We are conducting infantry training and have trained more than 1,000 Iraqis so far. We are leading on counter-improvised explosive device training and, subject to parliamentary approval, will gift 1,000 hand-held metal detectors. As of Sunday, we have conducted 152 air strikes in Iraq and deployed a range of aircraft to the region, including surveillance aircraft.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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One of the legacies of our time in Afghanistan is our expertise in tackling IEDs. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House when Britain will begin training Iraqi forces in this capability and what equipment—for example, electronic IED counter-measures such as those built by Selex ES in Basildon—will be made available so that they can better tackle ISIL?

Michael Fallon Portrait Michael Fallon
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question and can tell him that the counter-IED training will begin early next month. UK personnel are already engaged in Baghdad in course design at the coalition headquarters. In conjunction with the metal detector equipment we intend to supply, the training will allow about six Iraqi battalions to have an improved counter-IED capability, as well as creating smaller specialist counter-IED teams.