Rebuilding Britain’s dwindling stockpile of munitions after the war in Ukraine could take at least a decade putting UK national security at risk, MPs have warned.
The Commons Defence Committee said the UK and other Nato allies have allowed their reserves of ammunition to fall to “dangerously low levels” as they seek to keep Kyiv supplied in its struggle against the Russian invader.
It said the way in which Western governments procure armaments is “not fit for purpose” and it urged the Ministry of Defence to draw up an action plan to cut the time needed to restore its stockpiles.
“Whilst Russia is also facing the diminution of its stockpiles, other adversaries are able to maintain and potentially increase their own.
“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 committee’s warning echoes 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 urgently to step up production, as the Ukrainians were burning up munitions faster than the West was able to keep them supplied.
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.
“We therefore recommend that the department produce an action plan of how it intends to grow defence industrial capacity and reduce the time taken to replenish UK stockpiles.”
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,” a statement added.
Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey said: “Our military stockpiles are depleted and the Government is acting too slowly to replenish them.”