Ukraine - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:40 pm on 21 December 2022.

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Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords) 2:40, 21 December 2022

My Lords, I start, at the end of this year, by thanking the Minister for her very helpful and co-operative approach in keeping me and this Chamber up to date with respect to Ukraine over the last 300 days. It has been very welcome. I also make the usual but nonetheless extremely important restatement of our support for the Government’s actions with respect to Ukraine. As we have stated many times, the fight for freedom, democracy and the rule of law remain as important now, 300 days after Russia’s illegal invasion, as they were on day one. President Putin has strengthened the resolve of NATO and been surprised by the co-operation that is so evident, again demonstrated by today’s visit to the White House of President Zelensky. The Ukrainian Government and their people should know that our resolve in this country remains strong.

I would like to ask the Minister a number of questions which arise from the Statement and the Government’s actions. First, can we expect the full 2023 action plan for Ukraine that the Defence Secretary promised four months ago, and which is not yet published? When will it be published?

It is reported again that Russia is seeking to boost and extend its military links with Iran: the Defence Secretary says that Russia intends to supply military technology to Iran in return for it supplying drones to Russia. Can the Minister tell us what action the Government are taking on this with respect to Iran? The Defence Secretary says that the West must hold Russia’s enablers to account. How do the Government actually intend to hold Russia’s enablers to account—in this respect, Iran? Does it not also cause worries for that region around Iran as well, and show that the Ukrainian conflict has far-reaching consequences not only for Europe but beyond it?

In the face of the increasing support of drones being provided to Russia by Iran, what additional support are we providing to Ukraine to defend itself? Can the Minister update us on the latest situation with respect to the provision of military equipment to Ukraine by us and our allies? Are there any shortages, and are we maintaining our own stockpiles in the face of this additional demand?

Alongside the discussion around Ukraine, we read that the Prime Minister has ordered a review of UK spending in Ukraine, and of our support. Can the Minister explain what this actually means, given that Downing Street also said that it involved an audit of progress? Did the Ministry of Defence know that that statement was coming? Was there proper consultation about it and was it fully agreed?

The Ukrainian Government have also said that they require support, such as with energy, to help them through the winter in the face of the Russian attacks on their energy supply. How are we supporting civil society through such shortages, as the maintenance of the health and security of the civilian population in Ukraine is crucial to their own war effort? Given the reports in the media that Royal Marines have also been deployed in Ukraine—reports based on briefings from senior Royal Marine commanders—and particularly given that the missions carried

“a high level of political and military risk” is there anything further the Minister can say on that?

As London is to join other cities in darkening Christmas lights for Ukraine, in a show of solidarity with the millions of Ukrainians without power this winter, will the Minister join me in praising the British public for their support for the people of Ukraine? There is not only Homes for Ukraine, but the many fundraisers and expressions of support. This support is also essential; it shows the understanding that this has been a long struggle and is likely to continue for some time yet. The British public, in the face of their own difficulties, deserve much praise for understanding that some face even more difficulty. Was not the Defence Secretary right to say in his Statement that 300 days

“is not the maximum attention span of the international community”?

It has to be the case that our dedication to help Ukraine is enduring. It will not, and must not, let up through 2023 and beyond.