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Keir Starmer Urges Government To "Look Again" At Defence Spending After Ukraine Invasion

Keir Starmer said his party would "consider" backing an increase in defence spending

3 min read

Keir Starmer has told the government it should put forward new proposals for defence spending in the wake of Russian invasion.

The Labour leader has suggested his party would support an increase in defence spending after a number of senior Conservative MPs called for a rise in national spending on the military.

Speaking on Sunday, Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the Commons Defence Committee, said the government should "wake up" to the risk of Russian aggression and called for defence spending to rise to 3% of GDP.

Starmer said his party would "consider" any new proposals for increased spending as he urged the government to back down from proposed cuts to the armed forces.

"I do think the government is going to have to come back to Parliament and look again at defence spending and I know many Conservative MPs think that as well," he told the BBCs Today programme.

"I would also say the government at the moment is proposing cutting a further 10,000 from our armed services and I think they are wrong to do that and I would call on them not to do it. I think there is now a clamour for the government to come back to Parliament and look at defence spending and the defence strategy."

He added: "I think the government needs to come back and Parliament needs to look at the proposals they put before us and we will take a view on it."

The Labour leader also said he "welcomed" an announcement by the Prime Minister that the UK would provide a further £300m in military equipment to Ukraine ahead of a speech to Ukrainian officials on Monday. 

But he questioned the timing of the announcement made just days before the local elections, but said he did not want political parties to become "divided" over support for Ukraine.

"It is interesting it is two days before the local elections, but when I think of the images coming out of Ukraine, the bombing of maternity hopsitals etc, I don't think our arguments about the timing cut much spice," he said.

"On the substance, we support the provision of military equipment...the in principle position of all political parties that we stand up for Ukraine...stand against Russian aggression is very important."

Meanwhile, Starmer continued to deny he had broken lockdown rules after Conservative MPs urged Durham police to reopen their probe into last year's event where the Labour leader was filmed drinking beer in a party office.

Durham police had looked into the incident and concluded no rules were broken but were facing pressure to question the Labour leader after he claimed his team were taking a "break" before continuing work.

But Starmer accused Conservative MPs of "mud slinging" as he refused to say whether he had been contacted again by police.

"We were working in the office, it was just before elections, we were busy, we paused for food. No party, no rules were broken, that is the long and short of it," he said.

Pressed directly on whether he had been contacted by police in recent weeks, Starmer failed to give a clear answer saying instead this was being "whipped up" by the opposition.

"The police looked at this month ago and came to a clear conclusion that no rules were broken because no rules were broken," he added.

"They have already concluded their investigation. No rules were broken and this is simply being whipped up as mud slinging by Conservative MPs."

Asked on the BBC's Breakfast programme, Starmer said he would "of course" engage with police if he was contacted again, but insisted there was no case to be answered.

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