Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey has called for Britain to rearm, reinforce Ukraine, and put an end to military cuts.
Labour Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey called for the government to reassess its defence plans and increase military production in support of both Ukraine and the UK.
During a speech at the Institute of Directors, hosted by the defence and security think-tank RUSI, Mr. Healey addressed Rishi Sunak and advocated for British industry to manufacture weapons and ammunition to replenish the UK’s depleted stockpiles and to sustain efforts in arming Ukraine.
“The Defence Secretary himself conceded to me in the Commons last week, that ‘we have hollowed out and underfunded’ our forces. This is a frank admission of failure over 13 years of Conservative government. Time and again, visible capabilities – especially large expensive platforms which would only come into service in the long term – were given priority over effective capabilities needed for military use here and now. Time and again, a modernised warfighting division has been promised, but each time a decade away.
Today, the biggest risk facing the UK military is that large parts of it are underprepared for conventional conflict in Europe. Lacking spare parts, munitions and specialist personnel.
NATO is rightly doing what it can to avoid escalation to direct conflict with Russia. But deterring such escalation means we need to be prepared for it. So like 2021, alongside a new IR we should have a new Defence Command Paper. This must make clear how we meet NATO’s demand for greater force commitments, and should halt further cuts to the British Army. There is also the immediate need for a stockpiles strategy to sustain support for Ukraine and rearm Britain. Ukraine is depleting our military stockpiles, and the Government is acting too slowly to replenish them.
Take the NLAW anti-tank missiles that have been vital to Ukraine – it was 287 days after the invasion before the MoD got its act together and signed a new contract, with the first newly-made NLAW not due until 2024. We need to shift parts of our defence industry and MoD procurement on to an ‘urgent operational footing’, both to support Ukraine for the long-term and to rebuild UK stocks for any future conflict.”
In outlining steps he believes are necessary for the government to secure the UK, Mr. Healey emphasised the importance of prioritizing security in Europe, the Atlantic, and the Arctic, ensuring compliance with NATO commitments.
During his speech, he stated that a Labour government would undertake a “NATO test” within its first 100 days to assess the progress towards fulfilling Britain’s commitments to the alliance. As part of this assessment, Mr. Healey emphasised the need to halt further reductions to the army.
“Britain’s security strategy must be ‘NATO first’. The first priority for Britain’s Armed Forces must be where the threats are greatest, not where the business opportunities lie. This is in the NATO area – Europe, the North Atlantic, Arctic.
This is our primary obligation to our closest allies. After Ukraine, European allies will have to take on more responsibility for European security. The IR update must secure Britain as NATO’s leading European nation – which will be a Labour mission in Government.
It must outline the contribution the UK will make to NATO as it focuses on future Russian aggression, the Arctic opening up with climate change and a strategy to challenge and compete with China. And it must ensure our NATO obligations are fulfilled in full, answering the growing questions about critical capabilities that undermine the UK’s commitment to the Alliance – the size of the British Army, problems with AJAX, delays to Wedgetails, doubts about fielding a warfighting division.”
We will make the full speech available shortly.