John Healey – 2022 Speech on the UK and NATO’s Commitment to Ukraine

The speech made by John Healey, the Shadow Secretary of Defence, in the House of Commons on 20 June 2022.

Today marks day 117 since Russia began its brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine. It is now a grim, grinding war of attrition. NATO’s Secretary-General warned last week that the alliance

“must prepare for the fact that it could take years.”

Everything that can be done must be done to help to maintain the Ukrainian military’s morale, weaponry and personnel. The Government will continue to have Labour’s full support in the military assistance they provide to Ukraine.

In April, when responding to the Defence Secretary’s statement in this House, I urged the Government to move to supply

“the new NATO weapons that Ukraine will need for Putin’s next offensive”.—[Official Report, 25 April 2022; Vol. 712, c. 463.]

In these last two months, what NATO-standard stock has been supplied from the UK to Ukraine, and how many new contracts for missiles or ammunition production have the MOD now managed to sign and start?

On Friday, as the Minister said, the Prime Minister offered to train 10,000 new Ukrainian soldiers every three months. This is exactly what is needed. Did President Zelensky accept Britain’s offer? Will these Ukrainian recruits be trained in Britain? Which other NATO nations will be involved in such training?

As we mark the start of Armed Forces Week, the Labour leader and I had the privilege of visiting NATO’s maritime command and our UK Permanent Joint Headquarters in Northwood this morning. We wanted to thank our personnel for the service they give to our national and NATO commitments. However, there are serious growing concerns about the UK meeting its NATO commitments, with the failure to reboot defence plans in response to Ukraine, delays to a fully modern warfighting division until 2030, continued uncertainty over Ajax and, of course, further deep cuts to Army numbers.

The new head of the Army said in an internal message to troops last week that

“there is now a burning imperative to forge an Army capable of fighting alongside our allies and defeating Russia in battle”,

so why are Ministers pushing ahead with plans to cut another 10,000 soldiers? When will they halt these cuts, and when will they start to rebuild the strength of the British Army to meet the threats that our country and our NATO allies face?