Ukraine Update Debate

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Department: Ministry of Defence
Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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My hon. Friend is right; I have often stood at the Dispatch Box and said that as the threat changes so must our investment and funding. That has been all too forgotten when it has come to defence during the last three decades, to be honest. It was interesting that we always understandably responded to pressures in the NHS or the financial markets, but that did not seem necessary when it came to threats. That is how we have ended up with a need to go up to 3% by 2030.

As long as I am Defence Secretary, I will keep the view that as the threat changes we should always review the issues. That is fair and consistent for the men and women of the armed forces. It also sends a strong message to people such as President Putin: that we mean what we say.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
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In answer to the challenge from the Secretary of State, I can say that Labour Front Benchers are very ready for government—and by the way, his lot seem to be actively working to be ready for opposition.

The statement was helpful, but ignored the gorilla in the room. Earlier this week, the Secretary of State urgently flew to Washington DC for talks about the situation in Ukraine. There has been quite a bit of briefing in the media on what that may have been about. I fully understand the sensitivities, but surely it is owed to the House and indeed the nation for there to be some indication of how we and our allies see the conflict evolving.

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. He and I went to Washington ourselves in calmer times; it now seems decades ago. I was in opposition and he was in government, although he is well qualified to know what opposition is—sadly for him, he has probably spent more time in opposition than government.

There has been a lot of what I would describe as speculation rather than briefing about why I went to Washington; I noticed that yesterday two mainstream media publications gave different reasons for why I went. Fundamentally, President Putin makes his speeches, things change and we need to be absolutely prepared to discuss that with our closest allies. Sometimes it is important to do so in person. I thought it was important after the appointment of the new general, after President Putin’s speech about annexation and during the issues around Ukraine’s success on the battlefield and what that could mean for President Putin, his actions and what happens next.

It is important that we have such discussions in person. I went to the Pentagon and the State Department. I met the National Security Adviser and had other meetings to make sure that we all understand our planning processes about what we would do in the event of a whole range of things.

People should not be alarmed, but I hope they take comfort from the fact that my priority is, if necessary, getting on a plane to go and do that, not dealing with what is currently going on in our mainstream media.