Jack Lopresti MP last week visited Norway as part of the Defence Select Committee's sub Committee on Defence in the Arctic. The Defence sub-Committee is to begin an inquiry into the rapidly changing defence landscape in the Arctic and the potential implications for the UK.
The Arctic Ocean is changing. Permanent ice-cover is giving way and the Northwest and Northeast Passages are becoming seasonally ice-free. Consequently, international interest in the Arctic has reached levels not seen since the Cold War. This interest is commercial and scientific—including new shipping routes, environmental, strategic and defence-related.
All eight Arctic states (United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Norway) have embarked on ambitious procurement programmes to build up security and defence forces in the region. Russia has the most extensive Arctic defence programme which aims to harness the region as its primary base for natural resources by 2020. Norway, with over 80% of its maritime territory north of the Arctic Circle, considers this its primary region of strategic responsibility.
Currently, the UK Armed Forces' Arctic capability comprises elements of the Royal Navy (including the Royal Marines), the Royal Air Force and the Army. The UK is also a regular participant in the annual meetings of the Northern Group and the Arctic Security Forces Roundtable. While SDSR 2015 reflected increased attention from the Ministry of Defence in the security of Northern Europe, it stopped short of delivering an assessment of the UK's defence requirements in the Arctic, and whether these were being met.
Jack Lopresti MP says; "The Norway visit was very interesting indeed and we were hugely privileged to see our fantastic Royal Marines training in such a challenging environment. I was very proud to see that they are recognised globally for their arctic warfare expertise and were training the US Marines whilst we were there."
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Jack Lopresti: Will my right hon. Friend reassure the House that we are doing everything possible to help local indigenous forces on the ground with the liberation of Mosul and the defeat of Daesh, not only in relation to equipment and ammunition, but with regard to access to medical care, protective equipment such as helmets and body armour, and getting the right supplies and expertise for their wounded?
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Jack Lopresti: Does the Secretary of State share my view that the need to accommodate the views of 28 different countries has led to the common agricultural policy becoming overtly bureaucratic in a way that has harmed the interests of British farmers?