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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Rats jumping ship

Yes, I know the analogy in the title to this piece is a little unkind. After all, many of the MPs abandoning the Government whip are honourable and primcipled men and women, whose conscience has determined that they cannot support the present regime over the renewal of Trident. However, the idea that Blair's ship may be sinking does ring true.

It seems to me and many others that the vote on Trident tomorrow night is unnecessarily premature. There is no need to make a decision yet and I personally would prefer a government to have won a general election with a commitment to renewal in its manifesto before going down this road. Even then, there is logic in leaving the decision to the last practical moment so as to assess the international situation first.

The BBC report that at least one senior government minister has handed in his red box as a result of this vote. Deputy leader of the Commons Nigel Griffiths has resigned "with a heavy heart but a clear conscience." Jim Devine, a parliamentary private secretary, has also indicated he will resign over the issue. The Western Mail adds that at least six Welsh Labour MPs are preparing to defy the Government on this issue as well. If it were not for the support of the Tories the motion might well be lost.

It is a high price to pay to secure Tony Blair's legacy.
The Liberal-Dems support total nuclear disarmament of the United Kingdom without any negotiations with other nuclear (and upcoming nuclear powers). Is this correct?
This is the motion that was passed at Conference and which forms Liberal Democrat policy on Trident:
Conference notes the publication on 4th December 2006 of the White Paper The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent that sets out the Labour Government’s position to:

I. Maintain Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

II. Reduce the stockpile of operationally available warheads by 20%.

III. Participate in the US life extension programme for the Trident D5 missile.

IV. Take a decision on the future of the UK’s nuclear warheads in the next parliament.

V. Begin immediately the procurement of a new class of submarine to replace the four Vanguard class submarines, extending the life of the Vanguard class by five years if necessary.

VI. Take a decision on the number of new submarines required at a later date.


i) Reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitment of seeking to achieve the global elimination of nuclear weapons and recalls Liberal Democrat policy on Britain’s nuclear weapons, as set out in Defending Democracy (2002) and the General Election Manifesto 2005, The Real Alternative, that ‘we would retain the UK’s current minimum nuclear deterrent for the foreseeable future, until sufficient progress has been made towards the global elimination of such weapons’.

ii) Pledges the party to do all in its power to ensure that Britain abides by its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in particular in making more effective the review conferences on the NPT.

iii) Urges all nuclear weapons states, whether party to the NPT or not, to engage through negotiation and through independent actions in a process of nuclear disarmament; in particular it urges those states that have yet to do so, including India, Pakistan, China, and the United States, to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) so that it can enter into force.

iv) Considers that none of the world’s current nuclear weapons states poses a present threat to the UK and that nuclear weapons provide no defence or deterrent against terrorism.

v) Recognises the medium- and long-term possibility that new threats could arise to the United Kingdom as a result of global or regional instability and conflict caused by factors such as competition for resources, particularly energy, the effects of climate change, failing states, aggressive or oppressive regimes, social and economic marginalisation and the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons, expertise and materials.

vi) Observes with serious concern the nuclear weapons test undertaken by the Government of North Korea and the continuing enrichment of uranium by the Government of Iran in contravention of Security Council Resolution 1696 and urges these states to cease these programmes.

vii) Particularly recognises the danger over the next decade of the proliferation of states possessing nuclear weapons and the pressure this would place on other regional powers to consider acquiring nuclear weapons themselves, including the possibility of one or more of such states posing a threat to Britain, its neighbours and allies.

viii) Considers that a decision by Britain to renounce its nuclear weapons capability can be taken at any time, while recognising that the timing of such a decision has financial implications, and would be, in practice, very difficult to reverse.

Conference therefore:

A. Believes that in the light of such circumstances it would be unwise at present for Britain to renounce its nuclear weapons but that in the current situation Britain no longer needs the size of deterrent that the present Trident system represents.

B. Notes the House of Commons Defence Committee 2006 report, The Future of the UK’s Strategic Nuclear Deterrent, which concludes that with a programme to extend the life of the four Vanguard class submarines no binding decision needs to be made on a replacement for Trident at this time.

C. Recognises that on current planning assumptions, the most cost-effective replacement system to provide the UK with a minimum deterrent would be a submarine system based on the Trident missile reduced to three boats.

D. Further believes that such a significant reduction to Britain’s nuclear arsenal would:

i) Send a strong signal to non-nuclear weapons states that Britain continues to meet its obligations under the NPT.

ii) Provide cost savings that could be used for other defence purposes.

Conference therefore resolves that:

a) Britain should now begin a major reduction of its nuclear arsenal by approximately 50%, retaining no more than 100 warheads; with each Trident submarine carrying no more than 24 warheads when on deterrence patrol.

b) The current Trident nuclear system should be maintained and its operational life extended.

c) A final decision on whether, and if so how, to procure any successor system be taken at the point when the significant capital spending would begin to be incurred on a three-boat replacement.

Conference therefore calls on the Government to follow this course in order that a final decision on the manufacture of a successor to the Vanguard class submarines be taken in 2014. Such a policy would allow:

1. Britain to take the lead in working towards global nuclear disarmament at the 2010 Non Proliferation Treat review conference, by setting an example with the unilateral 50% cut in its nuclear warheads, and retaining a multilateral negotiating position on further warhead reductions and system replacement.

2. A clearer picture to develop concerning the proliferation of states that possess nuclear weapons and their ability to directly threaten Britain, its neighbours and allies.

3. Further consideration of the alternatives available based on a reduced minimum deterrent

4. Priority to be given to increasing the support for UK conventional armed forces at home and abroad.

Conference also recommends that the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party votes against the Government’s position as set out in the white paper when provided with the opportunity to do so in the House of Commons.
Peter. You off all people should know that the UK unilaterally "dropped" nuke powered bombs some years ago under Labour. The UK unilaterally took away, what many could argue, was the most independent part of the UK's nuclear arsenal. It is nothing but a sham and lies now that the Lib Dems focus on Trident and said almost nothing about the HUGE decrease of the UK's capability to strike independently without US satellite control. The British Tornado squadrons trained and tasked to drop nuke bombs were disbanded a few years back - the Liberal Party said practically nothing then, but wants the public to believe through this sham of a passed motion that the Lib Dems are serious about the defense of this country, when in fact the Liberal Party supported the removal of a whole class of nuclear weapons (not just a 20% reduction) from the UK arsenal. I say to you, the Lib Dems are playing on words - the Lib Dems clearly do not support a nuclear armed UK, because if they did, they would have asked back then for a reduction in the stock-pile of nuclear bombs and a delayed decision on disbanding the nuke armed British Tornado Squadrons.

The Liberal Democrats are also ignoring a scientific truth, that scientists need training and constant practice in the art of developing nuclear bombs and weapons - 20 years is a whole generation of scientists, delaying is not an option, delaying is actually doing harm, we are losing the capability to make independent warheads. If the Liberal Party is serious about a nuclear armed UK it would not adopt a policy designed to destroy it. The Liberal Democrats use clever words to fool the public into thinking they are a serious party, when in fact they desire a UK stripped of all its nuclear capability and by default (though the Lib-Dems are in denial or conveniently forget this point) to make the UK even more dependent on the USA by destroying the UK's independence to have an independent deterrent. The Lib-Dems policy will drive the UK to become more dependent on the USA for its defense, we will have more Tony Blair poodles c/o the Liberal Party.
Brtain has never had an independent nuclear weapon. The only country with this option is France with its 'Force de Frappe'. The real issue in this debate which has been ignored is what should the UK's foreign policy role be in the future. As we waste money on a weapon that will never be used British troops go into action without the right equipment.The last time the UK took unilateral action against another country was Suez in 1956 and it was forced to stop the invasion because the USA threatened to pull the plug on the UK economy. As for Tornado it never played a serious part in the UK's nuclear deterrent strategy.Perhaps Chris Woods could explain why Britain should have the nuclear deterrent when all the Scandanavian countries feel that they can easily live without it.With serious cuts threatened in public sector finances over the next few years all the decision to decide to build new submarines is sheer folly. I'm sure that Osama Bin Laden is quaking in his boots.
Except that we had the capability to drop free-fall nuclear bombs, which did not require input from US technology when used. Free-fall nuclear bombs cost a fraction of Trident and the Liberal Party’s connivance in dropping a cheap option (and flexible option) belies the Lib-Dems current argument that Trident is too expensive and we should look for cheaper alternatives.

The Lib Dems are playing a confidence trick on the British public by voting for motions that belie the true intent of the Liberal Democrats. Why not come out and say what the Liberal Democrats support CND and want to unilaterally do away with a nuclear deterrent? At least be an honest party. Because the Liberal Democrats won’t do that, and hide behind motions that they clearly don’t support (anonymous position is probably close to that of the Lib-Dem party as a whole), the Liberal Democrats are dishonest party playing a confidence trick on the British public.
I think Christopher that we have not come out to say that we support CND and want to unilaterally do away with a nuclear deterrent because it is not the case. The policy that I have reproduced was voted on by Conference and represents the views of the majority of members and MPs.
I think Peter it is now obvious that the Liberal Democrats support CND. More specifically, the views of the majority of the Lib-Dem members and MPs conflict with the motion that they voted for.
There is no evidence for that.
There is plenty of evidence for it Peter, both direct and indirect. The Liberal Democrats and CND are in bed with each other. Tonight the Liberal Democrats will vote against a replacement for Trident – how CND of the Lib-Dems.
I look forward to seeing the evidence then Christopher. The Liberal Democrats are voting to delay a decision on Trident until a more appropriate time. That is different to voting against it. I have to say that given the history of the party the idea that Liberal Democrats might be in close cahoots with CND is bizarre.

Changes to the international situation have made CND less prominent and the unilateralist agenda less relevant. We are in part of a complex inter-related international community and we have to adapt our policies to meet the demands of that situation. It is a shame that George W. Bush has not recognised that.
The Liberals have already connived in the removal (not a reduction) of a whole class of nuclear weapons, free-fall nuclear bombs and the downgrading of the RAF’s capability to drop nuclear bombs. Ming is on record for saying he wants a unilateral 50% reduction in what’s left of the UK nuclear arsenal. Bizarrely, Ming says this move could help kick-start multilateral disarmament. CND and the Liberal Democrats speak the same language: unilateral nuclear disarmament.
Not sure what you mean by 'connive' as we have not been in government when these decisions were taken. Nevertheless we are in a changing international situation and Britain's defence needs change as well. We cannot ring fence weapon systems and allow them to ossify in pursuit of a cold war situation that has now moved on. Name calling does not assist that debate.

The Liberal Democrats have never been unilateralist nor do they have any connections to CND. That is evidence in our policy position.
As someone who does not support the renewal of Trident, I firmly believe that the Lib Dems are sitting on the fence with this issue. They will wait until they have figured out which way public opinion is going, balance that up with their marginal/target seats and decide accordingly.

It worked with Iraq, didn't it?
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