System for rebuilding UK's ammunition levels 'not fit for purpose'

MPs warn it will take more than 10 years to restock 'dangerously low levels' of ammunition

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said armed forces across Europe have been paying the price for years of 'hollowing out'. PA
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Rebuilding Britain’s dwindling stockpile of munitions after the war in Ukraine could put the UK's national security at risk, MPs have warned.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has promised to restock but it will take more than 10 years, MPs said as they criticised the arms procurement system as “not fit for purpose”.

UK and Nato allies allowed ammunition reserves to fall to “dangerously low levels” as they sought to keep Ukraine supplied in its struggle against Russia, the Commons Defence Committee said.

“It is clear that the UK and its Nato allies have allowed ammunition stockpiles to dwindle to dangerously low levels,” the committee said.

“Whilst Russia is also facing the diminution of its stockpiles, other adversaries are able to maintain and potentially increase their own.”

As the UK faces a race to restock munitions, it has found a supply chain that is slow to move into gear.

“This inability to replenish UK stockpiles therefore puts at risk not just our ability to resupply Ukraine but also to counter any threat to our own security.

“The Minister [of State] for Defence Procurement told us that funding had been granted to the MoD in the autumn statement to both replenish and then increase UK ammunition stockpiles. However, this was projected to take over a decade.”

The committee urged the Defence Ministry to draw up an action plan to cut the time needed to restore its stockpiles.

The committee said it was essential that the UK’s defence industrial capacity was both “resilient and scalable” if it was to be able to ramp up production.

“It is clear that the manner in which western governments procure armaments is not fit for purpose,” the report said.

“The MoD produced a strategy aimed at improving the way that it engages with industry and allies almost two years ago and yet we have been told it will take at least a decade to replenish [and then increase to a sustainable level] UK ammunition stockpiles.”

The committee’s warning echoed concerns expressed by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who has said that armed forces across Europe have been paying the price for years of “hollowing out”.

Last month, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged allies to urgently to increase production, as the Ukrainians were burning up munitions faster than the West was able to keep them supplied.

Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood said: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should be a wake-up call for the West. Safety, security and democracy are hard won and easily lost.

“A powerful, resilient armed forces, standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies overseas, is the best deterrent against aggression.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said it was continuing to “place orders to replace ammunition given to Ukraine and [we] have an extra £560 million to increase stockpiles”.

“We remain fully engaged with industry, allies and partners to ensure both the continuation of supply to Ukraine and replenishment of UK stock as quickly as possible,” the ministry said.

Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey said: “Our military stockpiles are depleted and the government is acting too slowly to replenish them.”

Updated: March 07, 2023, 12:33 PM

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