It’s so important that now, more than ever, we stand up for our Armed Forces personnel, veterans, and their families for the contribution they make to our country, and for all they do to keep Britain safe. Theirs is the ultimate public service.
From deployments abroad in response to the invasion of Ukraine, to deployments at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, our Armed Forces are essential to our national defence, our national resilience and our national NATO obligations.
I’m also particularly proud of our local record here in Hounslow for championing our Armed Forces. In my constituency of Feltham and Heston, there were 90 people who joined the British Army between 2015 and 2022 to serve our country. I know I speak for everyone in Hounslow when I say that they do our whole community proud.
But it’s also important that we stand-up to threats to the wellbeing of our Armed Forces, whether that’s through threats from abroad or through a lack of support at home.
This means making sure the government do all they can to support those serving their country. But unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case under the Conservatives.
The Defence Secretary has admitted that the Conservatives have ‘hollowed out’ the UK Armed Forces. Since 2010, the government has cut the full-time strength of our Armed Forces by 45,000. One in five ships have been removed from the Royal Navy’s fleet. And more than 200 aircraft have been taken out of RAF service in the last five years alone.
And despite increased threats from Putin’s barbaric war in Ukraine, ministers are cutting down further to 73,000 troops by 2025 – the smallest size of the British Army since the time of Napoleon. Ministers must halt more cuts now.
The last 13 Conservative years have corroded the nation’s moral contract with those who serve in our Armed Forces. Personnel are living in damp and mouldy housing, satisfaction with service life has fallen well below 50 per cent, and retention rates of personnel are dropping.
I’m proud that the Labour Party have launched the ‘Veterans Voice’ campaign, a new nationwide listening campaign to help ensure our plans for the next general election reflect the experiences of veterans and their families.
We’ve also launched the ‘Homes fit for Heroes’ campaign, which highlights the terrible state of service accommodation under the Conservative government and how Labour will ensure our heroes will have a good home to live in.
And in Parliament, my Labour colleagues and I have called on ministers to reboot defence plans after the illegal invasion of Ukraine by halting army cuts, ensuring our NATO obligations are fulfilled and renewing Britain’s contract with our Forces.
Now, more than ever, our Armed Forces need support and thanks for all that they do, and I know that’s a sentiment shared across our local community and up and down the country.