Tag Archives: defence

There’s more than one reason why defence chiefs shouldn’t criticise politicians

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Entente Nucleaire?

We have had a lot of articles about Trident in the build up to conference. Now the motion has now passed with amendments, conference has commissioned a working group on what to do without Trident. The group has been asked to assess strategic threats; how best to promote non-proliferation and disarmament; the implications for Britain’s defence commitments to both NATO and our European alliances; and the scope and implications of other kinds of nuclear deterrent. Here is a proposal to consider.

In his article, George Cunningham argues that the international situation has changed enough that we should retain our nuclear capability after a broader re-evaluation of defence policy.

And George Potter writes that our stockpile is overshadowed as a deterrent by America’s NATO-wide umbrella, but enough of a threat to hostile nuclear powers to single the UK out as a target.

My sympathies are with the unilateralists. The reports and rumours I have read about outdated protocols, lax discipline, and the resulting almost-accidents are enough to make the blood run cold. The presence of nuclear weapons and their destructive force is a permanent risk to all of our lives. In an ideal world, we would use the scrap to plough our furrows. (In an ideal world, the radiation would make the crops super-big.)

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Conference controversy guaranteed – Renewal of Trident to be debated

Full details of the agenda for Autumn Conference will be released in due course, but reports on social media say that a motion calling for Trident not to be renewed at all will be debated.

If passed, this would mean an end to a succession of fudges on the issue in recent, and not so recent, years.

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Nick Harvey writes…Trident: The real gamble with the nation’s security is making a currently purpose-less weapon a financial priority

TridentFor some, there is no greater symbol of the United Kingdom’s enduring role on the world stage and continued military relevance than the Trident nuclear weapons system. For others, Trident is the last unreformed bastion of Cold War thinking. It is a symbol of a bygone era of fear, instability and sky-high defence spending to hedge against an unpredictable Soviet threat.

Despite the Cold War ending; Russia and the UK de-targeting one another; multiple treaties the UK has signed up to committing to a reduction in nuclear weapon stockpiles; and a £100bn price tag which will in time account for 10% of the MoD’s budget while our Armed Forces are in desperate need of updated kit; the Tories and Labour both refuse even to entertain the notion that the status quo might reasonably be questioned.

As evidenced by yesterday’s news, they instead choose to scaremonger and point-score over what might be traded in a future coalition. Top military chiefs have also expressed their disdain at the recent headlines. The two parties are prioritising the impressive feat of kicking around the country’s most expensive political football, rather than participating in a rational conversation about whether the assumptions upon which like-for-like replacement rests are logical or relevant to the threats Britain faces today.

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Opinion: We need meaningful discourse on Trident, not playground politics

I have spent much of the campaign so far wondering when issues of foreign policy would be discussed. This open question soon morphed into a desperate cry for someone, anyone to talk about what goes on beyond the shores of these islands and what Britain can or should do about those events. The 7-way debate that we were graced with by ITV proved to be as devoid of these questions as the rest of the campaign, for even when issues such as immigration floated in, they were stripped of an international context.

So it was that I had essentially resigned myself to a campaign devoid of hard questions about big problems, until today’s news headlines sparked a moment of hope. Trident had risen from the depths to push itself, and surely with it bigger questions about Britain, onto the agenda. At last, I could have almost cried, we can have the debate!

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Sir Nick Harvey writes…Difficult questions for all parties on defence spending

Today in the Commons I sat through impressive speeches from across the benches echoing concerns about the UK’s expenditure on defence – principally, our predicted failure to meet NATO’s 2 per cent of GDP target on defence spending in the approaching financial year.

There was little expectation that defence would become a big election issue, but less than two months ahead of polling day all the parties share the headache that a commitment to maintaining the 2 per cent target looks frankly impossible. With the assumption that further cuts will have to be made across the board, there are serious implications for the kind of role the UK wants to play in the world and how we are going to defend our global interests.

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Nick Harvey MP writes… We mustn’t let eurosceptics spoil useful defence co-operation with our EU partners

Today in London the UK’s foreign and defence secretaries, Philip Hammond and Michael Fallon, will meet their French counterparts, Laurent Fabius and Jean-Yves Le Drian. Of course, there is nothing particularly out of the ordinary about this meeting: in reality, UK and French Ministers meet frequently at various EU and NATO summits.

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LibLink: Tim Farron on Chilcot

At the Huffington Post, Tim Farron is decrying the delay to the Chilcot report into the Iraq war.

The publication of the Chilcot report is crucial and the delays are unacceptable – we cannot afford to continue walking in the dark.

The underlying issue which we need to understand and question is the alignment of British foreign policy with American priorities. Has Blair and Thatcher’s determination to maintain “the special relationship” benefitted our country? Should we continue in this vein? The Chilcot report, when it is eventually published, must force us to learn lessons for the years ahead: at the moment we are in limbo. In a year when the country will decide who rules for the next five, this is unacceptable.

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Michael Moore MP writes… Scotland’s place in the world

scotlands futureIt is the duty of the government of any state to safeguard national security and to protect its people, territory, economy and interests from internal and external threats.

If Scotland votes to leave the United Kingdom in September, there is no doubt that there would be major challenges for the national security of both Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The size and scale of our armed forces means the UK is considered a partner of choice by many countries around the world, delivering a geopolitical influence that few states …

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LibLink: Sir Nick Harvey MP: Time to reform EU defence policy and make Britain safer

Over at British Influence, Sir Nick Harvey has been writing about today’s EU meeting on defence co-operation and what he thinks could be achieved from it.

He sets out why co-operation is a good idea

EU defence cooperation has a crucial role to play in achieving security around the globe and preventing an onslaught of failed states. This is clearly in the UK’s national interest since failed states create a series of associated and interlinked problems which impact on the UK, such as severe poverty, irregular migration and terrorism – as we have seen in the case of Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

There have

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ALDE Congress passes UK Liberal Democrat motion calling for a halt to drone attacks

On 28th, 29th, and 30th Nov, the Annual Congress of European liberal parties in the European Parliament and beyond, (ALDE) met in London. The ‘pan-European’ liberal manifesto was agreed for the upcoming Euro elections, (no mean feat !), and several other resolutions were passed.

The UK Lib Dems had one motion on the agenda. This was an emergency motion on armed drone attacks, put forward following new on-the-ground data from the UN and others on civilians being killed, and following a European defence meeting which failed to address the illegality of the attacks, instead focusing on the capacity of ‘Europe’ to …

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Opinion: No dubious deterrent

TridentThe day after the end of Autumn conference in Glasgow, a letter appeared in The Times (£) (Sept 19) accusing the Lib Dems of having adopted a “reckless” defence strategy.

Co-signed by former Labour Secretary of State for Defence and NATO Secretary-General, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, former Tory Party Defence Secretary Liam Fox and 14 other politicians and former chiefs of defence, the letter lambasts the Lib Dems for “hare-brained schemes for a part-time deterrent which in reality is no deterrent at all” and that is driven “by a Lib Dem desire to scupper Trident at any cost”. News about the letter quickly spread and was reported on BBC TV as well.

I spoke in favour of retaining the full four submarine “Continuous-at-Sea” nuclear deterrent at the Lib Dem Party conference debate on defence and would have welcomed Lord Robertson’s letter with such heavy-weight support appearing just prior to the debate to give further credence to my intervention.

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Conference: Defending the Future will not defend the realm

The defence of the realm is the foremost responsibility of any government. The defence policy paper that will be debated in Glasgow this week is not only worrying, but potentially dangerous.

The first business of any defence policy is to recognise that the armed forces are to wage war in the name of our interests. We must be clear what these interests are. We can then be clear as to when we will deploy our armed forces into combat, what equipment they will need, the training they will require and the size and composition they must be. War is, after all, …

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Opinion: A more realistic approach to Defence policy

defenceThe Liberal Democrat Working Group on Defence came out last month with its policy paper “Defending the Future: UK Defence in the 21st Century”. Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats made a detailed submission – praised by members of the working group – which also shows some alternative paths for the party’s defence policy. We suggest it is well worth a read before the party’s new defence policy motion comes up for debate at this Autumn’s party conference.

The Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats’ paper calls for a more thought-through, long-term and realistic strategic approach by the Government, including defining more precisely Britain’s role in the world, a reform of security and defence-related institutions, the constant update of the threat assessment, the creation of out-of-area alliances to share military burden, ways for less expensive procurement, the capacity to regenerate of military forces quickly in time of war – and much more.

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Rennie: “Everyone who believes in robust defence of our shores should think carefully before backing independence”

Today’s Guardian reports that if Scotland votes for independence, the new Scottish Government might have difficulty joining NATO:

It is understood that Nato officials said it might be possible to allow Scotland to start fast-track talks – but in a blow to Salmond’s anti-nuclear strategy, the Scottish delegation was also told that no new member would be allowed to join Nato if that state had unresolved military or territorial disputes with other countries.

Under article 10 of the Nato treaty, one assistant general secretary of Nato said at the meeting on 6 July, new applicants also have

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Opinion: How can we advance nuclear disarmament?

To many the answer to this question is simple: de-commission Trident and don’t replace it. But this only leads to the next question – how do we get a British government to do this ?  It is a common mistake, and one that I have made too, to believe that passing a motion at our conference changes the world.  Trident

Of course, all we need to do then is win an election on the basis of policies agreed at conference and form a government.  Our brief current experience in government tells us that it may be a little more difficult.

The recent Trident Alternatives Review (TAR) and leaked versions of the party’s Defence Report to conference have become muddled and people are taking positions either before or without reading either document.  Certainly the speeches of Labour and Tory front and backbenchers in the Commons debate on TAR on 17th July revealed a depressing combination of wilful ignorance and prejudice. Both sides fell over each other to praise the need for a full Cold War system of nuclear deterrence and to denounce the Liberal Democrats for challenging it.

A couple of facts may bring some light instead of heat.  Firstly, all options including moving straight to no nukes would save nothing in the next parliament. Even decommissioning is expensive in the short run. As it is we still have old Polaris submarines awaiting safe removal of nuclear material. No option has a significant impact on the country’s current financial problems.

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Scrap Trident nuclear weapons, urge 58% of Lib Dem members

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

58% say scrap Trident, just 26% back leadership line of reduced deterrent

Currently the Trident system has FOUR nuclear armed submarines. This means that at least one nuclear armed submarine can always be on patrol, even if others are undergoing maintenance or training, and therefore the country has a continuous nuclear deterrent. One way of having a less expensive nuclear

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Opinion: Where does the Trident debate go from here?

In the Spring of 2011 I submitted a motion to conference. It was not selected for debate:

Conference notes that:

(i) The Coalition agreement states: “We will maintain Britain’s nuclear deterrent and have agreed that the renewal of Trident should be scrutinised to ensure value for money. The Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives.”

(ii) Conference in September last year resolved, among other things, to: “Press for the extension of the SDSR to allow a full review of the alternatives to ‘like-for-like replacement of Trident.”

(iii) The final decision on a replacement for the Vanguard-class submarines has been deferred to

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Nick Clegg’s Letter from the Leader: “Trident: we need to protect ourselves from the threats of the future not the past”

libdem letter from nick clegg

Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons system, divides opinion. That was apparent this week when the Government published the results of a two-year, detailed study of the alternatives.

Some people say Britain should surrender our nuclear weapons tomorrow, regardless of what threats we face. While others seem to believe it’s unpatriotic to even consider anything other than the full-scale Trident system we built for the Cold War threats of yesterday.

Personally, I think the world has changed. I am not, and never have been, a believer in unilateral disarmament. But I

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Opinion: Thoughts on Trident alternatives

The much awaited Trident alternatives report is out; and, within the given parameters, its quite a good one. The party should be happy it forced the MOD to publicly review its nuclear deterrent for the first time.

However, the revelation that ballistic missiles are superior to cruise missiles for nuclear deterrent is not really a revelation for even laypersons like myself, and the debate is really about replacing the V class nuclear submarines which carry Trident rather than the missile itself. Retaining the Trident system, which we already operate, would always be a cheaper option than a

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Baroness Shirley Williams writes… Trident review is a remarkable accomplishment for the Liberal Democrats

The Trident Alternatives Review is a highly informed and detailed study of the effectiveness, sustainability and cost of this country’s nuclear deterrent. Trident has been based on a rota of four submarines which between them ensure that there is always one nuclear-armed submarine at sea every hour of the day and every day of the year, a deterrent that is undoubtedly expensive but also, as the Review points out, ”as close as each system can get to an assured second strike capacity”.  Trident was developed in close co-operation with the United States and in that sense is not, unlike the …

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Trident: the Grand Old Lib Dems have lost this war already

110301-N-7237C-009Yesterday the Lib Dems published The Trident Alternatives Review. According to Danny Alexander, “it is the most thorough review of nuclear systems and postures the UK has ever made public. It is ground-breaking – thanks to the Liberal Democrats and our insistence that Trident alternatives must be examined.” That may be: but this is a war the party will not win.

Here’s the party’s sound-bite version of the policy:

We oppose the like-for-like replacement of Trident. We believe there is a ‘nuclear ladder’ of capabilities. Alternative systems or postures could bring

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Some recommended reading from the BBC’s Defence Correspondent

Joint-Strike-Fighter-006Those of us interested in politics and current affairs generally have particularly policy areas to which we pay closer attention and therefore develop greater knowledge of.

One of the vitally important areas of government policy which I don’t know enough about is defence. I read the Strategic Defence and Security Review when it was published, but its aim is not to act as a primer for the uninitiated, and it doesn’t do so.

Wishing to gain some knowledge (not least because the Lib Dems will shortly be voting on our future defence policies), therefore, …

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Willie Rennie on Iraq and four tests for future military intervention

Willie Rennie - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsThis week the Scottish Parliament debated the Iraq War, ten years on. This could have disintegrated into a “this is why we need independence” bunfight, but, actually, it ended up being one of those occasions when you could be proud of your Parliament for being thoughtful and mindful of the terrible human cost of this conflict.

Willie Rennie spoke for the Liberal Democrats in the debate and actually was applauded by the SNP benches who are, shall we say, not usually so friendly towards …

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Opinion: Funding defence

HMS Astute Arrives at Faslane for the First TimeDefence Secretary Phillip Hammond has made headlines by suggesting the MOD and the armed forces should be spared any more significant cuts in the future spending review, instead suggesting the cuts should come from the social welfare budget instead.

The problem is… I partially agree with him; the defence budget is already the bare minimum required to meet the UK’s international commitments. It has not only received its share of austerity cuts under the Coalition but was underfunded under Blair and Brown leading …

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Lynne Featherstone MP writes…the Aid budget and the Ministry of Defence

Despite extensive media coverage this morning, the aid budget is not about to be slashed to fund the Ministry of Defence.

All aid spending from the Department of International Development (DFID) is in line with internationally agreed guidelines. There is a strict definition of what can count as Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), which was established by the OECD. For example, aid cannot be spent on combat operations nor on military equipment.

It can be (and is) used to train another country’s security forces in human rights awareness, including gender-based violence issues – something I’m sure all …

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LibLink: Paddy – withdraw British troops from Afghanistan now

Writing in today’s Times (£), Paddy Ashdown says that Afghanistan is ‘not worth the life of one more soldier’:

The war in Afghanistan is lost and not worth the life of one more British soldier, Paddy Ashdown writes in The Times today. In a stark assessment of the 11-year campaign that has cost 438 British lives, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon urges Britain to pull out its troops as quickly as “decently” possible. The intervention comes as David

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Trident: it’s déjà vu all over again

The latest flurry of excitement about the Trident nuclear deterrent — as the Daily Mail puts it with typical tabloid restraint: Tories and LibDems at war over contract to build Trident sub: £350m deal is jumping the gun, warns Clegg — is one of those stories which pops up twice a year. The last time was six months ago, in May, when the Ministry of Defence announced £350m-worth of design contracts for the Trident successor submarines had been signed. As then Lib Dem defence minister Nick Harvey pointed out on LDV at the time:

is being portrayed as the Coalition Government moving a step closer to a

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Michael Moore MP’s Westminster Notes

Local catch ups

In my work as Borders MP I have regular catch ups with local public services such as NHS Borders, Lothian and Borders police and Scottish Borders Council. These are valuable meetings during which I am updated on key local issues and I am able bring my constituents’ concerns to their attention. Last week, as part of these regular catch ups, I met with Chief Superintendent John Hawkins in Hawick to discuss the work of local police and the crime and policing issues.


Ever since the Scottish Government announced their plan to hold a referendum on Scottish Independence, I have …

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Opinion: could the Armed Services help run schools?

First of all it is no exaggeration to say that the British public are hugely proud and supportive of our armed services, and so we should be of the men and women who dedicate their lives to national service. But in modern times the military is facing a number of challenges which are rapidly changing the function they serve.

With a Conservative Defence Secretary enacting the biggest round of cuts since the end of the …

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