Tag Archives: trident

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

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 44 Comments

Are you interested in working on party policy on nuclear weapons?


The Federal Policy Committee is searching for members with an interest and/or some relevant expertise in the issues around Trident and nuclear weapons to join a policy working group.

At Federal Conference in Bournemouth, Conference passed this amendment to the Trident motion:

1. Commission a Policy Working Group to develop policy on the future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, if any, following a full consultation within the party.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged | 6 Comments

Jeremy Corbyn and the emperor’s new clothes

The outgoing executive director of CentreForum, Nick Tyrone writes an interesting blog post about Jeremy Corbyn and the nuclear button issue:

The crucial moment of this year’s Labour conference came not via a speech or indeed anything that happened inside of the hall. It occurred in an interview Jeremy Corbyn gave to the BBC yesterday morning. When asked, if he were prime minister would he ever use nuclear weapons, he gave a straight answer: “No”.

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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 The reports and rumours I have read about outdated protocols, lax discipline, and the resulting almost-accidents are enough to make the blood run cold.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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“Scrapping Trident” debate – what conference voted for today

Here follows the text of the motion passed by conference this afternoon at the end of the debate entitled “Scrapping Trident” on the agenda.

I have shown the original motion in normal text with the original line numbers, and lines through the text which was deleted by conference. In italics I have shown the text inserted by virtue of conference voting for Amendment 1:

Posted in Conference | Also tagged and | 25 Comments

++Big conference decision: Amendment 1 to “Scrapping Trident” motion is carried after a card count

Conference voted in favour of amendment 1 to the “Scrapping Trident” motion this afternoon.

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Trident and the “doctrine of unripe time”

In his brilliant book on academic politics “Microcosmographica Academica” , F M Cornford wrote that there was only one argument for doing anything – that it was right. There were, however, many arguments for not doing anything, of which “the doctrine of unripe time” is one of the most common. This applies perfectly to the Liberal Democrat Conference debate on Trident. On the surface, the question seems simple – replace Trident or scrap Trident – but the waters have been muddied by an amendment from Baroness Jolly which says neither. It says we should set up another working group to consider options.

Over the last eight years conference has debated Trident no less than five times, sometimes alone and sometimes as part of a portmanteau motion. There have been two working groups which have taken evidence from senior civil servants, generals, academics and defence think tanks. In addition Ming Campbell conducted a review of options before we went into coalition. Finally in government we forced an official review of options by defence specialists. What can any party group possibly learn that will add to all that? What indeed! There is nothing new to learn. It’s just the “doctrine of unripe time” again. There is no reason whatsoever to kick this can down the road. There is a very good reason to make our minds up now. Some time in 2016 parliament will vote on the “Main Gate” decision committing over £100 billion pounds to Trident’s successor. Our working group would probably report back after that decision and all its regurgitation of old information would be utterly irrelevant.

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Willie Rennie MSP writes… Trident: We must consider effect of disarmament on our international relationships

Our party has always had a sceptical view of nuclear weapons. Whether we personally adhere to a multi-lateral or unilateral route to disarm, few members feel comfortable with the concept or reality of such a powerful weapons system.

There are issues of geo-diplomacy and security and not just party positioning at stake. Although not in power now, we need to consider our policy as if we were in government not just a party in opposition hunting for differentiation.

The United Kingdom is a stable partner amongst the nuclear defended nations of the world. The importance of stable partners should not be understated especially when the Non Proliferation talks take place every five years. Britain has been an important cog in the reduction of nuclear capability across the globe through these talks.

We need to consider the effects on geo-diplomacy if we unilaterally disarm. It is a delicate balance and we should be extremely careful when seeking to change that balance.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Also tagged and | 12 Comments

Trident renewal is not justified, but our policy must be coherent and multilateralist

Next spring, Parliament will debate and vote on whether to replace the UK’s ageing Trident submarines at a cost of approximately £30bn, in the so-called Main Gate investment decision. Operating the submarines and Trident through to the late 2050s will bring the total cost to more than £100bn.

I have consistently opposed the renewal of Trident, and was very disappointed with the current fudge we adopted in 2013. Indeed, at the time, I wondered whether it was the most strategically incoherent policy ever adopted?

Today, I continue to oppose Trident renewal for four reasons:

First, I favour progressive multilateral nuclear disarmament, and continuing with Trident does not represent the spirit of the UK’s obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty;

Second, the threat that the Soviet Union could mount a conventional attack through West Germany and that the USA may not respond (strategic decoupling) died with German reunification in NATO in 1990;

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Also tagged and | 13 Comments

The Independent View: Trident: It’s time to make the right decision

At a time when the future of Britain’s nuclear weapons system is under intense scrutiny – not least due to the anti-Trident position of Labour’s new leader – it is good to see Lib Dem Conference once again at the cutting edge of debate on this crucial issue. In government, the Lib Dems did much to challenge the pro-Trident consensus of the main parties. It may not have been the full anti-Trident position that many of us would like, but the ‘no-like-for like’ position certainly helped open up the debate. Now it’s time to move onto the next stage. It’s a crucial time to get this policy right as parliament is expected to vote on Trident replacement in early 2016.

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Conference Countdown 2015: We cannot vote to become group members of CND

We all remember the pain of the General Election. We seemed to lose votes from two major groups of people.

The first were people who would not forgive us for working with the Tories in Government. They were tacical voters who voted Lib Dem in 2010 and then voted Labour/Green in 2015.

The second group were swing Lib Dem/Conservative voters. Many of them were scared by the Tories into voting Conservative to stop a Labour/SNP government that would wreck the economy and make the UK unsafe.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Also tagged and | 35 Comments

William Wallace writes…The case has not been made for a like-for-like replacement of Trident

110301-N-7237C-009Jeremy Corbyn’s arrival as Labour leader will make it easier for the right-wing, in politics and media, to dismiss all criticism of the decision on replacing Trident that Parliament will make next year as wacky. Yet there are many, within the expert defence community as well as outside, who think that committing a third of the UK’s defence procurement budget, over a decade, to the replacement of a system designed for a contingency that no longer exists, is unjustifiable.

Liberal Democrats in the coalition examined the case for alternatives, against stubborn Conservative opposition. Next week the Liberal Democrat conference will debate what response to give to Conservative determination to press on with a full four-submarine programme, while cutting military spending elsewhere.

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Conference Countdown 2015: Trident debate: the fourth way

Current Liberal Democrat policy is that we reduce our fleet of nuclear missile submarines from four to three – but reducing the cost of our nuclear programme by less than a quarter. Most of the time we intend to have a nuclear missile submarine at sea but not armed with nuclear missiles. However at times of international tension we would sortie a submarine armed with nuclear weapons.

Trident and its successors are designed to penetrate sophisticated air defence systems such as those developed by Russia. I can think of no occasion when it would be rational for the United Kingdom to launch missiles at such a foe without the support of other major powers. No scenario in which an independent launch against such a major foe would be a sensible option has been put forward in the current debate.

Delegates to conference who think the three submarine strategy is a sensible use of £100bn can keep this policy by voting down the motion before conference.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Also tagged and | 31 Comments

Tim Farron MP writes…Liberal Democrats will not support like for like Trident replacement but Conference motion doesn’t answer key questions

Another Lib Dem conference and we find ourselves talking about our nuclear deterrent once more. This is a huge and timely issue as the Tory Government will be taking the decision to proceed with the Trident replacement programme next year. In fact, with the recent announcement of an additional £500m for Faslane they have already nailed their colours very firmly to the mast. So it’s absolutely right that conference should debate the issue, and I think members deserve to hear where I stand on it.

There are obviously strong views on both sides, but I do not support the existing motion. Judith Jolly has submitted a very sensible amendment which asks for the motion to be referred back to the Federal policy Committee. I want to see a full and open consultation on this issue so that we can consider the threats we face and be completely clear on the options, implications and costs of any decisions. We need a party working group to look at the questions of how best to allocate scare resources, guarantee security, and fulfil our international obligations while facing up to the type of threats and challenges Britain will face in the 21st Century. And we need Lib Dem answers.  

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Trident is a threat to our national security


A week from now Lib Dem conference will be debating our position on our Trident nuclear weapon system. Two years ago I wrote and proposed the amendment to our defence policy which called for us to oppose the renewal of Trident.

I still oppose the renewal of Trident and will fully support the Scrapping Trident motion.

But I’m not doing so because I oppose nuclear weapons out of principle or because I think unilaterally abandoning Trident will be a step towards a world free of nuclear weapons. Let’s be clear: a nuclear weapon free world is a dream which is highly unlikely to ever happen, let alone in my lifetime.

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Conference Countdown 2015: Let’s scrap the “scrapping Trident” motion

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Yesterday,  the Labour Party made the historic mistake of electing Jeremy Corbyn as its new party leader. Through this decision, it has thrown away years of work (and time in government) convincing the general public that it is electable. To a lesser degree, let us not do the same.

Naturally I respect the views of the “Scrapping Trident” lobby within the party. Theirs is a noble cause. But it should be remembered that the party already threw out the idea of scrapping Trident at party conference just two years ago by coming to a compromise that we would make substantial savings by reducing the number of Successor submarines from four to three.

Posted in Conference, Events and Op-eds | Also tagged | 56 Comments

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.

Posted in Conference and News | Also tagged , , and | 42 Comments

Opinion: Time to debate Trident

TridentThe Lib Dems Against Trident group was formed on Facebook at the end of October. Its objective is to get a motion on Trident onto the Agenda for September’s Party Conference. It currently has some 450 members. This is a quite remarkable tally for a Party Facebook group on one issue, and leaves one wondering how much support there is in the Party as a whole for scrapping Trident.

The group began by discussing the possible format of a motion. It eventually voted to promote the following motion:

“Conference notes that the go-ahead for building Successor submarines for the Trident system is scheduled to be decided upon in 2016.

Conference believes that British possession of nuclear weapons is inappropriate and unhelpful to today’s needs.

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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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LibLink: Danny Alexander: A like-for-like Trident replacement isn’t justifiable in terms of security or cost

110301-N-7237C-009Danny Alexander has written for the Guardian in response to yesterday’s Trident Commission report. He continues to make the case that the policy passed at Liberal Democrat Conference last September, which cut the number of submarines was the right one for two reasons.

First of all, we don’t need continuous at sea deterrence because the nature of the world has changed:

During the cold war, there was a credible threat of a surprise massive attack against this country or Nato allies. Our nuclear forces needed to be available within minutes in order to give credibility to our policy of deterrence. This is why we maintained continuous at-sea deterrence; we kept at least one armed submarine on patrol 24/7, 365 days of the year. But the Berlin Wall has been down now for 25 years and the threat of “state on state” attack is much reduced.

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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 …

Posted in Op-eds and Scotland | Also tagged and | 30 Comments

Opinion: The Scottish independence referendum – a lack of wisdom in the pro-UK camp?

September 14th "Welcome to Scotland"In September 2014, the Scottish public will vote on independence from the rest of the UK. As of mid-April 2014, the opinion polls suggest that the pro-UK camp is ahead, but over the past few weeks the pro-independence camp has been fast catching up. Why?

One reason seems to be the spat between the London-based UK administration and the Scottish National Party (SNP) over the role of Britain’s sterling currency. All three main UK national parties stepped in behind a sudden policy of non-cooperation with an independent Scotland …

photo by: amandabhslater
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Nick Harvey MP writes… Robert Gates poses stark defence question to UK: Do we want to be a real military partner or a nuclear power and nothing else?

Former US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning decrying the UK’s defence cuts. He said the squeeze meant the UK could no longer be a ‘full spectrum’ military partner of the US, acknowledging that our relationship with the US has been fundamentally altered.

A sceptic would quickly dismiss the comments of a man currently promoting his memoirs, but Gates makes a wider point about what exactly we want to be doing with a smaller defence capability.

Both Labour and the Tories continue to cling to the idea that we should maintain a full-scale Cold War …

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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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Martin Horwood MP: Trident – A Different Path

Dr StrangeloveFew aspects of British policy have remained so undisturbed for so long as the UK’s attitude to nuclear deterrence. As we bring home our troops from Germany, tying up one of the last loose ends in a Cold War conflict that Britons under the age of 40 can probably barely remember, it would be wise for our nuclear policy to finally catch up.

This is not a new idea for us. In opposition, Liberal Democrats opposed Tony Blair’s plan for early like-for-like replacement of Trident nuclear weapons and we did so on the basis that a system designed to counter the existential threat from the twentieth century Soviet Union is not sensible in the early twenty-first century.

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Danny Alexander MP writes… Trident: The UK’s voice on an international issue

I believe Trident is the UK’s last, unreformed bastion of Cold War thinking. And I believe we can adapt our nuclear deterrent to the threats of the 21st century by ending 24-hour patrols when we don’t need them and procuring fewer submarines.

This is the conclusion I draw from the Trident Alternatives Review that the Coalition Government published in July – a Review that clearly would not have happened without Lib Dems in Government.

But when the Review was published, some of our critics claimed any changes to Trident would seriously damage our relationship with the US. …

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Opinion: Looking forward to a post-Trident future

Amid general agreement on the thrust of Julie Smith’s Committee’s excellent paper, and gratitude that Nick Harvey and Danny Alexander have delivered unprecedented transparency on the UK’s nuclear options, next Tuesday’s debate on defence offers two sharply differing views of the future of Britain’s nuclear future.

On the one hand, there is Nick Harvey’s proposal to retain the Trident missiles, their warheads and associated infrastructure, but reducing our purchase of new Trident submarines from four to two. This means that from the early 2030s, the UK will no longer be able to mount the standing patrols of Continuous At-Sea Deterrence (CASD) …

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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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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAdam Boyden 27th Nov - 3:18pm
    This is very good to see Tim. The Govt need to be much more responsible for where our weapons of war end up, and who...
  • User AvatarHelen Dudden 27th Nov - 3:12pm
    The new MP for Bath Ben Howlett has just donated his pay rise to the homeless and hungry children, that's a positive start. Are any...
  • User Avatarnvelope2003 27th Nov - 3:10pm
    Labour has been increasing its vote in by elections in the South and South East
  • User AvatarPHIL THOMAS 27th Nov - 3:06pm
    Looks like Labour are in melt down in Oldham. I suspect UKIP are likely to squeeze all the anti Corbyn votes. Watch out for a...
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 27th Nov - 2:41pm
    The security industry is nearly all against airstrikes. From what I can see. They don't suggest many alternatives though. There is a lot of outrage...
  • User AvatarRuth Bright 27th Nov - 2:34pm
    It is completely wrong to accuse Tim of being tokenistic or putting patients at risk. The current rules are discriminatory and limit the supply of...