Britain needs new 'stockpile' strategy to support Ukraine, says Labour
By Elizabeth Piper
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain must set out a new strategy to boost military production and overhaul wasteful procurement to better support Ukraine and signal to Russia that things can only get worse, opposition Labour's defence policy chief said on Tuesday.
With Labour commanding a healthy lead over the governing Conservatives, its top team of policy chiefs, who "shadow" their equivalents in government, have been setting out their plans if they win power at an election expected next year.
John Healey is the latest shadow minister to make his pitch, saying Britain needs to step up its defence production and end cuts to its armed forces to not only support Ukraine but also to fulfil its commitments to the NATO military alliance.
"What is required now from the British government ... is not just the ad hoc announcements of military help ... but a longer term plan that takes us through 2023 and beyond for the military, diplomatic, the economic, the humanitarian help that we are willing to provide Ukraine," Healey told Reuters.
"These are decisions for now. These are decisions for next month in the new Integrated Review and in the spring budget," he said in an interview, referring to a review of Britain's foreign and defence policy. Healey added that a Labour government would "always spend what is required to defend Britain."
Ahead of a speech to the RUSI think tank, he urged the government to make it clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin that "things will get worse", warning Moscow's ambitions "won't stop at the Ukrainian borders".
He urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to adopt a new approach in the foreign and defence policy update. It is expected to come out in March and gauge the challenges Britain sees from nations such as Russia and China.
First written in 2021, it has been overtaken by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and growing fears over China, becoming a focus for those who seek more spending on defence and want London to take a stronger line on Beijing.
Defence minister Ben Wallace told parliament late last month the country's armed forces had been "hollowed out and underfunded," later saying that defence should get "a growing proportion of spend" over the long-term.
At RUSI, Healey described Wallace's words as a "frank admission of failure over 13 years of Conservative government" and called for more, and wiser, spending on defence.
He said he could not put a number on how much more Labour would spend without seeing intelligence on the status of the threats Britain faces.
But he said the Ministry of Defence had wasted more than 5 billion pounds ($6 billion) in "bad procurement decisions".
"Next month's Integrated Review and budget together will show whether this government has the strength to secure the country’s future or whether they'll fudge the finances and delay major decisions until after the next election," he said.
($1 = 0.8339 pounds)
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Kate Holton and Tomasz Janowski)