The speech made by John Healey, the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, in the House of Commons on 25 February 2022.
The whole House appreciates your willingness to allow this urgent question, Mr Speaker, and the manner in which the Minister is briefing the House and the way in which his colleagues are prepared to keep the House informed during this very rapidly developing crisis.
Yesterday, President Putin launched a war in Europe. He is invading and killing people in a sovereign country that Russia itself guaranteed to respect. His attack on Ukraine is an attack on democracy and a grave violation of international law and the United Nations charter. Putin will not stop at Ukraine; he wants to divide and weaken the west, and to re-establish Russian control over neighbouring countries. These are the actions of an imperialist and a dictator, and Britain has a long tradition of standing up to such tyrants. We believe in freedom, democracy, the rule of law and the right of a country to decide its own future, and those are the very values that Ukrainians are fighting for now in their country. We must support their brave resistance in any way we can, and our thoughts are with the comrades and families of those on both sides who have been killed in these first hours of fighting.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister told the House that the UK would shortly be providing a further package of military support to Ukraine. We understand the Minister’s comments about detail, but has that further military assistance been provided? The Minister knows that he has Labour’s full support for doing so, and he also knows that what was announced and delivered before—the UK’s short-range, hand-held anti-tank missiles—are working well. He knows that the Ukrainians need more of those missiles urgently in order to defend Kyiv and their other cities, so can he confirm that he is willing to go that bit further? The Minister has just said that Russia has failed to take any of its day one objectives. Which are the major objectives that it has failed to meet, and what is the Government’s assessment of why it has failed?
Finally, NATO leaders meet today. Does Britain support NATO’s response force now being activated in full? What further contribution will the UK make to reinforcing NATO allies on the eastern flank, and when will the 1,000 UK troops on stand-by to help with humanitarian assistance be deployed? The Minister also mentioned the doubling up of British forces in Estonia. When will those be deployed and in place?
Since the end of the cold war, we have taken peace and security in Europe for granted. We can no longer do so, and I fear that we will be dealing with the consequences of this Russian invasion for years to come.