Martin spoke as SNP Defence Spokesperson in response to an Urgent Question on UK military deployments in the Middle East. Here is an extract of Martin’s question in the Commons transcribed via Hansard:
The Secretary of State for Defence (Grant Shapps): Since Hamas’s horrendous attack on Israel on 7 October, we have increased our military presence in the region. This is to support contingency planning, monitor the evolving situation, and be ready to react and respond. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, I deployed a Royal Navy task group to the eastern Mediterranean, including RFA Lyme Bay and RFA Argus, three Merlin helicopters and a company of Royal Marines as a contingency measure. HMS Diamond is sailing through the Red sea to provide maritime security. HMS Lancaster is already in the middle east.
This morning, I provided a written ministerial statement notifying the House that unarmed military surveillance flights will begin in support of hostage rescue. The UK Government have been working with partners across the region to secure the release of hostages, including British nationals who have been kidnapped. I will move heaven and earth to bring our hostages home. The UK Ministry of Defence will conduct surveillance flights over the eastern Mediterranean, including operating in airspace over Israel and Gaza. The surveillance aircraft will be unmanned. They do not have a combat role and will be tasked solely to locate hostages. Only information relating to hostage rescue will be passed to the relevant authorities responsible for those rescues.
The MOD is working on land, air and maritime routes to deliver urgently needed humanitarian aid. Four RAF flights carrying over 74 tonnes of aid have landed in Egypt. I am considering whether RFA Argus and RFA Lyme Bay can support medical and humanitarian aid provision, given that their original purpose was potentially to take non-combatants out of the area. The MOD routinely deploys significant numbers of military personnel in the wider middle east for operations such as counter-Daesh, training, maritime security and other reasons. There is currently a force laid down across the region of nearly 2,500 military personnel.
Later this week, the Chief of the Defence Staff and I are visiting sovereign base areas, the Republic of Cyprus, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel. I will, of course, report back to the House after that visit. Our objectives include to demonstrate and reaffirm the UK’s continued support for Israel, while continuing to press for adherence to international humanitarian law; to emphasise the importance the UK places on humanitarian aid reaching Gaza; to facilitate a deeper understanding of Israel’s planned next steps in Gaza now that the current pause has ended, and activity along the northern border; and to reaffirm the United Kingdom’s continued belief in a two-state solution and support for a viable and sovereign Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel.
Martin Docherty-Hughes MP (SNP, West Dunbartonshire): It is important to repeat the denunciation of the death cult known as Hamas. Given the war of attrition that is now taking place in south Gaza, let me reiterate from the SNP Benches the call for an immediate ceasefire, because I am afraid that a pause will not suffice. The view from here, at least, is that without a ceasefire we will see yet another graveyard from which fundamentalism will rise.
Let me ask a specific question. The Secretary of State mentioned reconnaissance missions looking, rightfully, for UK citizens being held by Hamas. Does he agree that any information coming out of those reconnaissance missions that sees illegal activity under international law should be handed over to the International Criminal Court for its ongoing investigation into the operations in Gaza?
The Secretary of State for Defence (Grant Shapps): The hon. Gentleman is right to stress the abominable, disgraceful, disgusting behaviour of Hamas. He calls for a permanent ceasefire; I suggest that that would be a heck of a lot easier if Hamas released the hostages they are holding right now.
As I stressed earlier, we will be in charge of the reconnaissance information, which will focus exclusively on hostage recovery and will be passed only to the appropriate authorities.
Watch the Urgent Question in full here.