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22 May 2024

London Defence Conference: Defence and security will be priorities, say Labour

Labour shadow ministers have said they remain committed to defence and security and there will be “no change in support for Ukraine” if they are elected to government.

David Lammy and John Healey at the London Defence Conference

The Rt Hon John Healey, Shadow Defence Secretary and the Rt Hon David Lammy, Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, addressed the London Defence Conference at King’s College London.

Mr Healey said: “There will be a general election in Britain. There may be a change of government in Britain. But there will be no change in Britain’s resolve to stand with Ukraine, to confront Russian aggression or to pursue Putin for his war crimes.”

He added: “We have not done enough to make clear defence of the UK starts in Ukraine.”

Mr Healey spoke of a recent visit to Ukraine he conducted with Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy MP, and the importance of that cross department collaborating and recognising that the war in Ukraine is not just a military issue but affects diplomacy, trade and industry.

“[The public] are not raising security and foreign affairs [as an issue]. They’re raising the cost of living, they’re raising the cost of the NHS, they’re raising crime in their neighborhoods.

Rt Hon Mr David Lammy, Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs

He added: “They do understand however that the cost of living, particularly, is driven by foreign policy and world events.

"A foreign office under [Labour] has to be centred on growth and economic security.”

Earlier at the conference, Mr Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Defence, spoke about the need for countries to increase defence to 2.5 percent. Mr Healey said that despite announcing the raise in 2022, the Government has not included or costed that figure in any of their budgets or spending statements released since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Mr Healey said: “People judge governments on what they do, not just what they say. [...] The last time this country spent 2.5% of GDP on defence was in 2010 with Labour, no one has matched that since.”

The panel was hosted by Mark Urban, Diplomatic Editor of BBC Newsnight at the second day of the London Defence Conference, hosted at King's.