Foreign Affairs - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 4:56 pm ar 5 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Fowler Lord Fowler Non-affiliated 4:56, 5 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, on his speech. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, on his new post, which he is carrying out with absolute excellence.

Today, we have all around us headlines about the need to reduce taxes to make life better for the electorate. Perhaps I can adapt the famous words of President Kennedy: we should think not just about ourselves but also about the needs of other peoples around the world. There is the perilous position of the Palestinians, and there is poverty in Africa and a host of other nations. But I would suggest that what we have to decide is where, today, we can exert the most influence, most quickly, to improve the position. I suggest, at this moment, that this is in Ukraine.

I remember being in Kyiv in the winter of 2013, just before Christmas. In the central square, there was a crowded demonstration of several thousand supporting closer links with western Europe and protesting at the then Government’s refusal to do this in the face of Russian threats. The crowd was enthusiastic but peaceful; there was no hint of violence. Later, when the television cameras had stopped transmitting, the demonstrators who remained were beaten back by riot police and the square cleared. It was the immediate prelude to the Kyiv revolution.

It is fair to say that, since then, the Government of Ukraine have received a great deal of verbal support from other European Governments, including Britain, France and Germany. The question, which has been touched on by a number of speakers—perhaps most of all by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop—is whether the tangible support has matched the rhetoric.

In 2022, the Russians invaded and few of the commentators gave much for Ukraine’s chances. We have now passed the second anniversary of the resistance to that invasion. Thanks to the courage of the armed forces, the determination of the people of Ukraine and the leadership of President Zelensky, Russia has been held back. The question is: for how long? To put it bluntly, Ukraine needs more help, now. Last month, in Germany, President Zelensky made an urgent appeal for more weapons to avoid a “catastrophic” situation in Europe. That was a strong warning; we should listen and, above all, we should respond. Countries such as Britain are giving, but the truth is that we must give more.

I am not a completely uncritical supporter of Margaret Thatcher, as my recent book perhaps shows—she was certainly not a world leader on AIDS. However, I will say that, on her central aim that the Government must pursue a strong defence policy, coupled with insisting on law and order at home, she was absolutely right. I am not so hopelessly optimistic that anything we say in this debate will influence the Budget tomorrow, much of which has, regrettably, already been leaked to the press. Nor do I pretend that spending more on defence is an easy message, as it means scaling back on other projects. But it is the right thing to do and we should pursue it. We cannot afford a further part of Europe to slip under the power of Putin and the Russian Government. Ukraine deserves all our support, and that is what we should volunteer.