31 October 2022
James Cleverly updates Parliament on Ukraine

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly updates the House of Commons on the situation in Ukraine.

The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (James Cleverly)

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will update the House on the situation in Ukraine.

This morning, Russian missiles again struck Kyiv and other cities, destroying critical national infrastructure and depriving Ukrainians of water and electricity. Earlier today I spoke to our ambassador in Kyiv, and I heard again of the extraordinary resilience of Ukraine’s people in the face of Russian aggression.

At the weekend, Russia suspended its participation in the Black sea grain initiative, which has allowed the exportation of 100,000 tonnes of food every day, including to some of the least developed countries in the world. Putin is exacting vengeance for his military failures on the civilians of Ukraine by cutting off their power and water supply, and on the poorest people in the world by threatening their food supplies. Over 60% of the wheat exported under the Black sea grain initiative has gone to low and middle-income countries, including Ethiopia, Yemen and Afghanistan. It would be unconscionable for those lands to be made to suffer because of Putin’s setbacks on the battlefield in Ukraine. I urge Russia to stop impeding this vital initiative, which is helping to feed the hungry across the world, and to agree to its extension.

Meanwhile, Russia’s suicide drones and cruise missiles are killing Ukrainian civilians, obliterating their homes and even destroying a children’s playground. A third of the country’s power stations were put out of operation in a single week. None of this achieves any military purpose. Putin’s only aim is to spread terror and to deprive Ukrainian families of shelter, light and heat as harsh winter approaches. I am sure the House will join me in condemning his breaches of international humanitarian law.

I am also sure that every right hon. and hon. Member will share my conviction that Putin will never break the spirit of the Ukrainian people, and my incredulity at the glaring contradictions in his thinking. He claims that Ukraine is part of Russia and that Ukrainians are Russians, but at the same time he calls them Nazis who must be bombed without mercy.

When Putin launched his invasion, he convinced himself that Russian forces would be welcomed into Kyiv and that Ukrainians would support him or be too craven to stand in his way. He could not have been more wrong. The last eight months have shown the scale of his miscalculation and the barbarity of his onslaught, including the mass rape committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine. The UK’s campaign to prevent sexual violence in conflict is more urgent now than ever and I will host a conference on that vital subject next month. The Kremlin is now resorting to peddling false claims and churning out invented stories that say more about the fractures within the Russian Government than they do about us.

It is reprehensible that Iran should have supplied Russia with the Shahed drones that are bringing destruction to Ukraine, in violation of UN resolution 2231. On 20 October, the Government imposed sanctions on three Iranian commanders involved in supplying weaponry to Russia, along with the company that manufactures Shahed drones.

Earlier, on 30 September, Putin announced that Russia had annexed four regions of Ukraine spanning 40,000 square miles—the biggest land grab in Europe since the second world war. Once again, this exposes his self-delusion. He has declared the annexation of territory that he has not captured, and what he had managed to seize he is in the process of losing.

On 12 October, 143 countries—three quarters of the entire membership of the United Nations—voted in the General Assembly to condemn the annexations. Russia had just four supporters: Syria, Belarus, Nicaragua and North Korea. When those regimes are a country’s only friends, they really know that they are isolated. When 141 countries denounced Putin’s invasion in March, some speculated that that was the ceiling of international support for Ukraine. The latest vote showed that even more nations are now ready to condemn Russia, but Putin still thinks that by forcing up food and energy prices, we will lose our resolve. Our task is to prove him wrong.

We will not waver in our support for Ukraine’s right to self-defence. I delivered that emphatic message when I spoke to my Ukrainian counterpart on Tuesday, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said the same to President Zelensky when they spoke on the phone—the first foreign leader who he called on his appointment as Prime Minister. On Thursday I will attend a meeting of G7 Foreign Ministers in Germany, where I will send a unified signal of our shared determination. This year, Britain gave Ukraine £2.3 billion of military support—more than any country in the world apart from the United States of America. We will provide Ukraine with more support to repair its energy infrastructure and we have committed £220 million of humanitarian aid.

The House will have noted Putin’s irresponsible talk about nuclear weapons and an absurd claim that Ukraine plans to detonate a radiological dirty bomb on its own territory. No other country is talking about nuclear use; no country is threatening Russia or President Putin. He should be clear that, for the UK and our allies, any use at all of nuclear weapons would fundamentally change the nature of this conflict. There would be severe consequences for Russia. How counterproductive would it be for Russia to break a norm against nuclear use that has held since 1945 and has underpinned global security?

Nothing will alter our conviction that the Ukrainians have a right to live in peace and freedom in their own lands. If Putin were to succeed, every expansionist tyrant would be emboldened to do their worst and no country would be safe. That is why we stand, and will continue to stand, alongside our Ukrainian friends until the day comes—as it inevitably will—that they prevail. I commend this statement to the House.

Mr Speaker 

I call the shadow Foreign Secretary.


Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab)

The war in Ukraine is at a critical new stage, with increasing missile and drone attacks, and the senseless withdrawal from the grain export deal, which will lead to increasing hunger around the world. As we enter the winter months, Putin’s rhetoric is becoming increasing irresponsible, including his references to nuclear weapons and dangerous fabrications around a so-called dirty bomb, and I support the Foreign Secretary’s words on that matter. This is a sign of Putin’s desperation, but it does not mean that an end is near; this will be a long and protracted conflict.

This morning, more than 50 missiles were launched by Russian forces against Ukrainian energy and water systems over the course of just a few hours. This is not an isolated attack, but a deliberate and callous Russian strategy to target civilian infrastructure ahead of the winter. Some estimates claim almost a third of Ukraine’s power stations and other energy facilities have been hit, and 80% of Kyiv has been left without water after these latest attacks. The Foreign Secretary mentioned his discussions with our ambassador on the ground, and I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the embassy team for their continuing work in very challenging conditions.

Can the Foreign Secretary set out today how many electricity generators the UK has already sent to Ukraine, and how we will strengthen Ukraine’s energy supply at this time? Some of these attacks have been conducted using Iranian-supplied drones. We welcome the sanctions already announced against the Iranian regime. What further measures are the Government considering to prevent Iran’s material support to Russia’s invasion? Over the past week, we have also seen Russia engage in baseless, ridiculous accusations that the United Kingdom was involved in the destruction of part of the Nord Stream pipeline. What are the Government doing to tackle the dangerous disinformation being spread by Putin?

The UN-backed agreement on grain exports has been vital in reducing global food prices. President Putin’s unjustifiable decision to pull out of this deal will have catastrophic consequences. It comes at a time when many countries are already food-insecure, including Somalia, where an imminent famine is feared. This decision should be seen by the world for what it is: the Kremlin’s cruel and transparent use of hunger to blackmail. Any spike in world food prices will be the responsibility of the Russian Government. An agreement must be restored. Can the Foreign Secretary outline what conversations he has had with counterparts, including in Turkey, on the potential for restoring grain flows, and what steps the UK is considering to mitigate the worst consequences for the developing world if those efforts fail?

Since the end of August, Ukraine has been conducting successful counter-offensive operations in the south and east of Ukraine, liberating around 12,000 sq km, but Russia continues to attempt to make progress in Donbas around Bakhmut. Winter is coming, any counter-offensives could soon slow and an operational stalemate is likely for the next couple of months. It is day 249 of the invasion, and the Ministry of Defence has not even signed a contract to replenish the NLAW anti-tank missiles, which have been vital to the Ukrainian army. Will the Government restock and resupply Ukraine, and the British armed forces, with essential military assistance? Over 20 NATO countries have now rebooted defence plans since the invasion began, but the UK Government have still not done so. Will the Foreign Secretary update the integrated review of foreign and defence policy, and will he continue with what was indicated by the last Prime Minister now that we are on our third in just three months?

Last month at the United Nations more countries than ever voted to condemn Russia in its illegal and unjustifiable annexations of Ukrainian territory. The world saw through the sham referendums and recognised Russia’s actions as a flagrant violation of the UN charter. We must sustain and grow the diplomatic coalition against Putin, because the outcome of this war will depend on who is more resilient: Putin’s Russia, or Ukraine and its supporters in the west and beyond. Labour is clear that we will not let our support for Ukraine falter.

Our duty now is to make sure Ukraine wins; this means providing the diplomatic and military support required but also moving beyond ad hoc announcements and laying out a long-term strategy for military, economic and diplomatic assistance through 2023 and beyond. We have to reinforce the message to Putin that continuing this barbaric war will make it worse, not better, for Russia.

James Cleverly 

I thank the right hon. Gentleman, my opposite number, for the points that he has made, and for echoing from the Opposition Front Bench the support for the Ukrainian people in their work to eject Russia from their homeland. It is noticed that although we sometimes disagree on the detail, our collective response is to support the Ukrainian people; that will be noted, and they will be incredibly grateful for it. He raised a number of points, which I will attempt to cover in my response.

On the energy needs of the Ukrainian people going into the winter, the UK has pledged £100 million to support Ukraine’s energy security and to reform, and £74 million in fiscal grants to support Ukraine through the World Bank. I will seek to get more details on the right hon. Gentleman’s specific question about the number of generators and share them with him at an appropriate point in the future.

On Iran, the right hon. Gentleman noted that we have already sanctioned a number of people—a point I made in my statement. He will know that we do not discuss future sanctions designations, but I can assure him that we will be keeping a close eye on the actions of Iran, and indeed any other countries, in providing arms for Russia, and we will take appropriate actions to dissuade them from doing so and to react if they do.

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight the situation with regard to disinformation. Increasingly desperate statements have been coming out of the Russian Ministry of Defence and the Kremlin. Those claims are designed to distract the Russian people, and indeed the wider international community, from the truth, and the truth is that the Ukrainians are pushing Russian forces back on the battlefield. We must not be distracted from that truth, and the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that we must work with our international allies to make sure Russia’s disinformation campaign does not influence global support for the Ukrainian people.

The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned grain exports, and I have spoken with my Turkish counterparts in the past expressing our gratitude for the work they have done in securing that grain export deal. We have also reinforced the need for that to be extended and for Russia to lift the pause on its engagement on that. This is about ensuring that the global poor—those who are already suffering from hunger—are not drawn into a conflict not of their choosing. We must not let Vladimir Putin use global hunger as leverage to undermine support for the Ukrainians in the defence of their homelands.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the supply of anti-tank missile systems. We are committed to matching our support next year, as we have done for this year. We will ensure the Ukrainians are supplied with the arms most relevant to their needs at the time. In the initial phases of the conflict, NLAWs and other anti-tank missile systems were incredibly important to them. The battlefield has now evolved, and ground-to-air and air- to-air missile systems have increased in importance. We will make sure our support for Ukraine matches its needs, but we will also ensure that we do not denude our own armed forces of requirements, and action has been taken to stimulate the supply chain for critical and military equipment. We will always ensure that we adapt to the circumstances on the ground and on the battlefield and that we do not denude ourselves of our ability to defend this country as well as our friends and allies.

Mr Speaker 

We come to the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Alicia Kearns (Rutland and Melton) (Con)

Over the next month, war on the ground will be most difficult for Putin to wage, so he is weaponising famine, information, sexual violence and even Ukraine’s children. What conversations is my right hon. Friend having with abstentionist countries who are most likely to suffer from famine in order that they encourage Russia to return to the Black sea grain deal?

On the kidnapping of Ukrainian children, which is a form of genocide, no meaningful international action appears to be taking place. Will my right hon. Friend reassure us on that front? Finally, Bellingcat has identified 33 individuals whose sole job is to target civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. Will he reassure us that sanctions are being considered against those individuals whose sole job is to terrorise the Ukrainian public?

James Cleverly 

I thank my hon. Friend for those points. She is absolutely right that it is important that we engage with those countries who have thus far abstained in votes at the United Nations, to remind them that Russia’s attack on Ukraine—the invasion of Ukraine—is not just a European issue. It is about the UN charter, territorial integrity and the rule of law, and any and all countries who value those things should show solidarity in their condemnation of Russia’s involvement.

My hon. Friend asked about individuals who may be involved in the targeting of civilian infrastructure. She will understand that, of course, we do not discuss intelligence matters and we do not go into detail about future sanctions designations. However, I assure her that we think and act carefully in terms of our response to deter as well as to respond to the issues that she raised. We will of course keep a very close eye on the actions of Russia where it is targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure as well as critical national infrastructure. That will always be an important part of the work that we do.

Mr Speaker 

I call the SNP spokesperson.

Ms Anum Qaisar (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)

The renewed cruise missile attacks on Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure this morning were appalling, but, tragically, they are now part of Putin’s almost daily arsenal. By attacking residential areas, electricity infrastructure and water supplies, Putin is ordering his troops to carry out war crimes on a daily basis. As an international community, we cannot allow that to happen. Will the Foreign Secretary give the House details about what is being done to assist diplomats on the ground in Ukraine—including UK diplomats—to document war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Russian military so that those incidents can be escalated to the International Criminal Court?

As the war morphs into a protracted conflict, there is an increasing danger of Ukraine fatigue creeping into the UK public. Statistics published recently show that amid hiked UK energy prices, the UK public’s support for continuing economic sanctions against Russia has fallen from 73% in March to 41% this month. What are the UK Government doing to militate against Ukraine fatigue? Will they commit to a public campaign to remind the electorate why we are supporting Ukraine and what they can continue doing to help?

Food security is also of grave concern. Twelve grain export ships have left Ukraine today, despite Russia pulling out of the Turkey and UN-brokered grain deal. The need for reliable grain supplies is acute, particularly in regions such as the horn of Africa. Russia, as the aggressor in the war, has already made itself an international pariah, and it cannot continue to do so by actively restricting food supplies to famine and drought-affected regions of the world. Will the Foreign Secretary therefore outline the steps that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is taking alongside international allies to get Russian officials back into talks for the deal? Will he confirm whether UK officials are assisting their Turkish counterparts in their efforts to secure the grain deal?

Finally, will the Foreign Secretary update the House on sanctions on Iran, given that it has supplied drones to Russia that have targeted civilians in Ukraine? He rightly said to the shadow Foreign Secretary that he would not give detail, but will he commit to giving regular updates to the House?

James Cleverly 

The hon. Lady raises a number of very important points. On Iran, I can assure her that we constantly review our sanctions designations. We will ensure that we respond to any further breaches of the UN Security Council resolution on supplying arms to the conflict.

The hon. Lady makes an incredibly important point about the documentation of war crimes. I had meetings with Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, with regard to the documentation of war crimes to ensure that perpetrators know they will be held to account for the actions they have taken.

We recognise that this winter will be tough for people in the UK—our energy support package is designed to alleviate some of the pressure, but we recognise that it will be tough. However, I think the British people instinctively understand that if we slip back from our support of the Ukrainians in this incredibly difficult time, globally, the costs in lives, in food supplies, in energy supplies and to families in the UK will be huge. 

As difficult as it is—and I recognise it is difficult for everyone at this time—it is essential that we continue our support for Ukraine, because the costs of inaction will be so much higher.

Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) (Con)

Tens of thousands of people have been affected by this war directly and thousands of innocent Ukrainian civilians have lost their lives. It is absolutely right that the UK remains steadfast and unwavering in its support for the people of Ukraine. We will be with them for as long as they need us. Globally, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, many millions of the world’s most vulnerable have been pushed deeper into hunger, starvation and even famine by Putin’s war on food. I was very pleased to hear my right hon. Friend remind us of the fact that the majority of the grain that has come out of the Black sea has gone to low and middle-income countries, because Russian misinformation is trying to tell the world the opposite. May I urge my right hon. Friend and his team of excellent Ministers to use all diplomatic tools to try to get the Black sea grain initiative not only back up and running but extended, and to continue to call out Russian misinformation on that point?

James Cleverly 

I put on record my thanks to my right hon. Friend for the work she did in her time at the FCDO and for the huge energy she brought to the role. She is absolutely right that we are witnessing the perverse situation where Vladimir Putin is trying to impose even greater hunger on people who are already suffering food insecurity and, in some instances, famine. It is absolutely wrong that he does so, and we call on Russia to resume the Black sea grain deal and to extend it. It is deeply, deeply wrong that the world’s poor are forced to suffer even more because Russia has been and is being unsuccessful on the battlefield. I assure her that we will continue to work with Turkey and others to get the deal back in place.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)

One of the most depressing, upsetting things that I have seen in the past few days is Russian conscripts in floods of tears, saying, “I don’t want to be cannon fodder; I’m just going to be cannon fodder.” This is a crime against the Russian people as well. I want to ask about the sanctions regime in the UK, because it seems a bit of an own goal and counterproductive if significant people who are being sanctioned by the UK are allowed to have £60,000 a month and £1.5 million to spend on luxurious lifestyles here. And will the Foreign Secretary update us on what has happened to the £3.5 billion from Abramovich’s sale of Chelsea, which was meant to have gone to the reconstruction of Ukraine by now?

James Cleverly 

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we will continue to work with our international counterparts to make sure that our sanctions are as effective as they can be and to continue to put pressure on the people who are funding Russia’s illegal and unprovoked war in Ukraine. I will seek to get further details on the specific points that he raised on sanctions. He is absolutely right that, in addition to the terrible suffering that Ukrainians are experiencing because of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Russians are also suffering. Mothers who thought that their sons were going to a training exercise have now found out that those soldiers have been killed on the battlefield. Putin has blood on his hands—Ukrainian blood, Russian blood. It is down to him and almost no one else.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)

Given the emphasis that Putin is putting on attacking infrastructure, and without in any way asking the Foreign Secretary to be specific, will he reassure the House that our armed forces are paying enough attention to protecting undersea pipelines and internet cables? Between now and the autumn statement, will he have a quiet word with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to say that now is not the right time to be rowing back from a long overdue promise to increase expenditure on defence?

James Cleverly 

My right hon. Friend tempts me to go beyond my brief at the Dispatch Box. All I can say is that I always listen to his advice carefully, and I have no doubt that the Secretary of State for Defence, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor will all have listened carefully to the points that he put forward.

Tony Lloyd (Rochdale) (Lab)

The Foreign Secretary is right to make the point about protecting the infrastructure in Ukraine, because we know that, at the moment, the campaign is about weakening the morale of the Ukrainian people. In that context, is he satisfied that there is the international co-ordination to ensure that British efforts and the efforts of other international partners deliver the support that Ukraine needs?

James Cleverly 

The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. Vladimir Putin clearly went into this conflict believing that the pressure that he asserted on Ukraine would create fragmentation in the Ukrainian political system—it did not. He was expecting that it would create tension in NATO—it did not. He thought that it would split up the EU—it did not. He thought that it would break up the G7—it did not. On every single strategic aim, he has failed. Indeed, he is now looking at a stronger and larger NATO because of his actions. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the international community, if anything, has been brought closer together through our co-ordinated response to Russian’s invasion of Ukraine and our support to the Ukrainians.

Sir John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con)

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that if, indeed, any attack did take place on the Russian Black sea fleet, the UK had absolutely no involvement in it? Will he confirm that despite the withdrawal of Russia from the agreement, ships bearing grain have nevertheless left Odesa today, and will he say whether he expects that to continue?

James Cleverly 

My right hon. Friend makes an important point about the Black sea grain deal, which is helping to feed people who need international support now more than ever. The claims of the Kremlin and the Russian Ministry of Defence are becoming increasingly detached from reality; as I have said, they are designed to distract the Russian people from the reality of Russian failures on the battlefield. We will continue to shine a light on those failures, and we will continue to support Ukraine in defending itself against that aggression.

Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab)

In the announcement that it was pulling out of the deal, Russia said that it would be “risky” for Ukraine to continue to export grain via the Black sea. The only possible risk to ships comes from Russia itself. Further to the question that the right hon. Member for Maldon (Sir John Whittingdale) asked, if ships are moving out of Odesa, and with reports that the United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine have reached some agreement about ships currently in Turkish waters, does the Foreign Secretary think that there is any prospect that President Putin’s bluff will be called, that the ships will continue to be inspected by other parties to the agreement and that they can carry on helping to feed the world?

James Cleverly 

The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point about where the only credible threat to international shipping would come from. If grain ships were attacked or the export of grain were prevented, the world would see who was ultimately responsible for imposing even more hunger on the world, on people in the global south and on people who are already suffering because of food insecurity and famine. The world would see who was truly to blame for imposing greater hardship on people who are already suffering.

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con)

I absolutely endorse the support that Ministers are giving to Ukraine, but we have entered a darker chapter: as Putin is up against the wall, he is resorting to non-conventional means. Bearing in mind the escalatory ladder, I suggest that our support therefore needs to move from the battlefield to Ukraine’s infrastructure. Odesa is a critical port and the grain ships are not getting out at the scale necessary to feed the world. I suggest that the Foreign Secretary go to the United Nations General Assembly and secure a resolution to create a safe haven around the port, so that Britain can lead the international community in a maritime flotilla to support the grain ships departing from and entering the port.

James Cleverly 

My right hon. Friend makes an incredibly important point about the significance of grain exports from the Black sea, and I have listened to his proposal. Russia needs to immediately reverse its pause on its involvement in Black sea exports. We will look at any options that increase the flow of food to the global south and to the people who need that food more than ever. I take my right hon. Friend’s suggestion seriously. Ultimately, we want to do whatever we can to increase grain exports immediately.

Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP)

I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement. I recognise the answers that he has already given about sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps; I encourage him to recognise that there will be support across the House should he deem it fit to take further action, as I would encourage him to.

It is encouraging to hear that the United Nations is standing by ship movements today, but will he elaborate from a diplomatic perspective on the avenues available through the United Nations to increase international support, bearing in mind the veto that Russia continues to have in the P5?

James Cleverly 

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the in-built limitations of the United Nations because of Russia’s abuse of its veto. Across the world, 143 countries have voted in condemnation of annexation and 141 have voted in condemnation of the attack. We know that the United Nations is still an incredibly important institution, but Russia’s veto limits to some extent what it can do. We will continue to work with the UN and with Turkey and others to maximise the grain exports through the Black sea so that we can alleviate the hunger felt by the global south.

James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)

I am sure that everyone in the House today will share my horror and revulsion at the continual targeting by Russia of non-combatants, and also the lobbing of missiles into civilian areas. Noting the limitations indirectly posed by article 5, can the Foreign Secretary tell us whether any consideration has been given to the deployment of an Iron Dome or Patriot-type system to protect the Ukrainians?

James Cleverly 

The UK and our international allies have provided Ukraine with both ground-to-air and air-to-air defence systems. We will continue to assess its defence needs and adjust our support accordingly.

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op)

At the Council of Europe, of which I am a member, President Zelensky suggested that Ukraine had only about 10% of the air defences that it needed to respond to the current onslaught. Much of that onslaught comes from Iranian drones. Given that Iran is in a condition of social unrest, what efforts are the UK Government making to ensure that people in Iran know that the focus of their Government is to send weapons of mass destruction to be used against innocent people—rather than feeding them bread and giving them human rights—so that we can choke off, over time, the supply of these deadly weapons?

James Cleverly 

The hon. Gentleman has made a good point. We will continue to take action to discourage the supply to Russia of weapons that might be used in Ukraine, and we will keep under constant review our sanctions packages to choke off the supply of weapons such as drones.

Wendy Morton (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con)

My right hon. Friend has explained what he is doing to urge allies and other countries to provide extra support for Ukraine, but can he now tell us what more we can do in respect of the training of those brave Ukrainians who are fighting in their homeland, perhaps working with our NATO allies?

James Cleverly 

I am proud to have been joined on the Front Bench by the Minister for the Armed Forces and Veterans, my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells (James Heappey). I am incredibly proud of the work that the British armed forces have done in training members of the Ukrainian armed forces, and we are being joined by an increasingly large number of international allies who are doing likewise. I think it is being demonstrated on the battlefield that what has been decisive is not just the equipment we have supplied or the inherent resolve of the Ukrainian forces, but the technical improvement that our training of those forces has helped to bring about, and I have no doubt that that will continue.

Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)

I thank the Foreign Secretary for his words. I particularly agreed with his statement that we would not allow Putin to use hunger as global leverage, because doing so is barbaric and condemns to death thousands more than he has already killed.

Given that backdrop, does the Foreign Secretary share my concern that we are now spending only 0.3% of gross national income on aid across the world? We found that out over the weekend. All of us here have campaigned on manifestos specifying 0.7%. Surely the answer now is for us to step up again and ensure that what Putin wants to do cannot be done, because we will be there to ensure that his barbaric act will not have the effect for which he hopes.

James Cleverly 

I do not agree with the figures that the hon. Lady has used, but the broader fact is that we continue to support countries in the global south and poor countries around the world—directly, but also by ensuring that grain exports continue; we are helping Ukraine through the Black sea grain initiative—and I can assure her and the House that we will continue to do both. It is important that we re-establish the principle that powerful neighbours cannot invade another country with impunity, and that territorial integrity must be preserved. It is the very people in other parts of the world to whom the hon. Lady referred who will suffer if the message is sent to potential aggressors that we will stand idly by and watch them brutalise their neighbours. We will never do that.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)

Order. Before we proceed, let me point out that a great many Members still wish to participate in this session, and we have already been under way for 42 minutes. There is plenty of other business that the House has to transact during the rest of today, so may I make a plea for short questions, which will then allow the Foreign Secretary to give short answers?

John Howell (Henley) (Con)

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating President Zelensky on engaging directly with parliamentarians such as myself at the Council of Europe, where he spoke openly about his needs? It was in answer to a question of mine that he said he had only 10% of what he needed for missile defence systems.

James Cleverly 

I congratulate President Zelensky on his engagement with partners, both bilaterally and multilaterally, and I would like to put on record my thanks for the work that my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell) does to ensure that these issues are brought to people’s attention and for the huge amount of effort he puts into the UK’s position on the Council of Europe.

Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab)

The Foreign Secretary’s statement mentioned Syria as one of the countries at the United Nations that had given Russia comfort, but it is not Syrian civilians who have taken that stance. In fact, they are the very people who know, equally to anyone in the world, about Putin’s violence. What is the Foreign Secretary doing at the United Nations or elsewhere to widen the consensus that all civilians in our world deserve protection from Putin’s violence, including Syrian civilians?

James Cleverly 

The hon. Lady makes an incredibly important point. We have seen the leadership in Russia and Putin bringing pain and harm on Russian people, and we have seen Assad bringing pain and harm on Syrian people. We know that this is not being done in their name or with their say-so, and she is right to say that civilians around the world are suffering because of the poor decisions of their brutal leadership, both in Moscow and in Syria.

Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con)

I welcome my right hon. Friend to his place; I am delighted to see that he is still there.

I understand that we hear an awful lot about what we and the Americans are giving in direct help to the Ukrainians, but can he clarify to the House the exact scale of what other NATO countries such as Germany and France are giving to Ukraine?

James Cleverly 

Time prevents me from going into the level of detail that my hon. Friend has asked for, but I can reassure the House that, while the UK is second only to the United States of America in giving direct military support, other countries around the world and around Europe are very much providing support to Ukraine and have responded with alacrity to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Both through NATO and through institutions including the G7, we have become closer as allies, and I am sure that we will continue to stand in solidarity in our support for the Ukrainians in the defence of their homeland.

Mohammad Yasin (Bedford) (Lab)

My constituent Georgii and many of the refugees supported by the Homes for Ukraine scheme arrived in the UK with their Ukrainian cars and hope to return home as soon as it is safe to do so. Will the Foreign Secretary speak to his colleagues in the Department for Transport about urgently dropping or extending the requirement to exchange Ukrainian number plates for UK plates beyond the current six-month period, which is causing unnecessary stress for those affected?

James Cleverly 

I will take note of the point the hon. Gentleman has made, as I am sure my colleagues in the Department for Transport will also have done.

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)

Will the Foreign Secretary impose sanctions on Ivan Ryabov, a Russian security official who was shown to have abused Russian females protesting against Ukraine? Would this not show that our sanctions can reach even junior Russians who abuse Russian protesters like that?

James Cleverly 

I am sure that my hon. Friend will be unsurprised to hear that we do not discuss future sanctions designations, but the House and my Department will have heard the name he has mentioned and the circumstances in which that sanction might be considered.

Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab)

I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement. He mentioned the NLAW—the next-generation light anti-tank weapon—which has been tremendously effective in Ukraine. However, it is also a fact that we have not yet put in a contract for its renewal not only in the stocks of the UK Army but for any future use in Ukraine. Why is that, and when will the contract be signed?

James Cleverly 

My understanding is that we have given letters of comfort to the NLAW supply chain to stimulate future production. We will, of course, always take action to ensure not only that we are able to support Ukraine in the defence of its homeland but that we do so without detriment to our ability to defend ourselves.

Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con)

UN estimates suggest that the Black sea grain initiative has indirectly saved 100 million people from falling into extreme poverty. When my right hon. Friend goes to the G7 meeting on Thursday, will he raise this topic to see how we can support our key partner, Turkey, in trying to make sure Russia reverses its suspension of this deal?

James Cleverly 

I regularly speak to my Turkish counterpart on this issue and others. Turkey is very committed to ensuring that the grain exports continue, and I will continue discussing with Turkey how we can ensure that they continue beyond the lifetime of this agreement.

Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)

Russian missile strikes in Kyiv have reportedly left much of the city without water. What more will the Government do, through both expertise and funding, to ensure that Ukrainians have access to clean water?

James Cleverly 

The hon. Lady makes an incredibly important point about the ability to repair infrastructure. I spoke to His Majesty’s ambassador to Kyiv this afternoon about the remarkable speed with which Ukrainian municipal workers are repairing that infrastructure.

The right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) asked about humanitarian assistance, and it will include 856 portable generators to support power for essential public services in Ukraine.

Robert Courts (Witney) (Con)

I pay tribute to the extraordinary achievements of the Ukrainian air force in the current circumstances. Can the Foreign Secretary assure me that he will consider what support we can give so that the aerial dimension is not forgotten?

James Cleverly 

I can assure my hon. Friend that we will consider that. I am very proud that we have supplied a number of AMRAAM missiles specifically to help the Ukrainians defend themselves against attack from the air. We will keep that under constant review.

Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)

In a statement issued in March, the Government said they had created an electricity network support taskforce for Ukraine, bringing together UK commercial suppliers and the Energy Networks Association. The then Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), said:

“We will keep the lights on in Ukraine.”

I thank the Foreign Secretary for mentioning the 856 mobile generators, but will he update the House on the role of the electricity network support taskforce in honouring the former Foreign Secretary’s pledge?

James Cleverly 

We continue to work with the Ukrainians to help them keep the lights on and the water going, not just in the here and now but into the future. This will help their energy resilience. We will ensure that our support to Ukraine adapts to account for its changing needs and circumstances.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con)

Should not Putin’s weaponisation of food be a wake-up call to those African countries, many of them Commonwealth countries, that have perhaps inadvertently bought into Putin’s false narrative on the war and recently abstained rather than voting for the UN resolution? They should understand that Russia and Putin are an unreliable partner for Africa.

James Cleverly 

The whole world, including the Commonwealth nations and our friends in Africa and other parts of the global south, should recognise that Vladimir Putin is no friend of theirs. He is using their hunger as leverage in his war against Ukraine, and they should be able to see what is happening. We will continue helping to get grain out of Ukraine, to help them put food on their tables.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and answers, and I particularly thank him for the £220 million of humanitarian aid, which is incredibly important. With specific reference to the passage of humanitarian aid, can he confirm that there are still corridors for medical supplies and goods to reach the innocent people caught in the midst of Putin’s despicable criminal attacks?

James Cleverly 

The hon. Gentleman makes an incredibly important point. As well as putting the money on the table, we have to make sure that our support gets to the people who need it. We will constantly look at ways of ensuring that is the case. He will understand that I will refrain from going into details about the aid corridors currently in place.

Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)

As the Foreign Secretary will know, the attack in February was not the first invasion of Ukraine by Russia; it has been illegally occupying territory, including Crimea, for the past eight years. Therefore, is he clear that any strike on Crimean territory, particularly on the Sevastopol naval facilities, is a strike on Ukrainian territory, not on Russian territory?

James Cleverly 

My hon. Friend makes an incredibly important point: this conflict did not start in February. The most recent phase of it started in February, but Ukrainians have been attacked, abused, and occupied by Russian forces for many, many years before that. We must never lose sight of that fact.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con)

My right hon. Friend spoke about Iran supplying drones to Russia to attack Ukrainians. Will he say a bit more about the implications that has for the nuclear deal the world has with Iran?

James Cleverly 

My hon. Friend raises an important point, but this is fundamentally a separate issue. Our resolve, and the international resolve, to prevent further nuclear proliferation remains unchanged. We will continue working with our allies to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon, but we will also ensure that we prevent Iran, and indeed anyone else, from exporting arms to Russia that are being used in this conflict in Ukraine.

Saqib Bhatti (Meriden) (Con)

It is incredibly worrying that Iran is undermining the Ukrainian defence and putting Ukrainian civilians at risk by supplying Russia with Shahed drones. I understand that we have sanctioned three Iranian commanders, but will my right hon. Friend confirm that he and the Prime Minister are willing to go further if needed and that he will be raising the issue when he meets his counterparts in the G7 this Thursday?

James Cleverly 

I assure my hon. Friend that we will continue to keep our sanctions package under review. We will respond to any further breaches of the United Nations Security Council resolutions and we will ensure that the message is sent that those people and companies that are supplying arms to Russia in breach of UN Security Council resolutions will be responded to.

Brendan Clarke-Smith (Bassetlaw) (Con)

May I say how truly astounded I am at the bravery of the tens of thousands of Ukrainians who have stepped up to defend their homeland? Will my right hon. Friend assure me that the UK is doing all it can, with its allies, to make sure that the Ukrainians receive the necessary training for them to be able to do their jobs?

James Cleverly 

At the beginning of the year, at the UN, I said that the Ukrainians would defend their homeland ferociously, and they have done exactly that. My respect for those people—both the professional soldiers, air personnel and sailors in the Ukrainian armed forces before the invasion, and those teachers, builders, catwalk models and former politicians who have taken up arms to defend their country—is enormous. They have the most enormous respect from across the world. I assure my hon. Friend that we will continue to support them as they defend themselves against this illegal, unprovoked and barbaric invasion.