Lib Dems Trident decision – stick or twist

Members of the Nuclear Weapons Working Group are presenting their personal views as part of a wider consultation process into the party’s future policy on nuclear weapons. The full consultation paper can be found at www.libdems.org.uk/autumn-conference-16-policypapers and the consultation window runs until 28 October. Party members are invited to attend the consultation session at party conference in Brighton, to be held on Saturday 17 September at 1pm in the Balmoral Room of the Hilton.

 

It’s great to be able to speak with my own voice for a change. I’m more used to putting words in other people’s mouths. As Ming Campbell’s foreign affairs adviser, Charles Kennedy’s speechwriter, and then Nick Clegg’s policy chief, I played a small part in the Lib Dems evolving policy on nuclear weapons for over a decade.

When I joined the Ministry of Defence in 2009 as a politically restricted civil servant, I thought my involvement would end. No such luck! From my berth in the MOD, I found myself supporting Nick Harvey as he out-foxed the steely men with cold eyes to set up the Trident Alternatives Review. I wrote Danny Alexander’s speech launching the review, helping him frame the options so as to fulfil the Lib Dems’ pledge of ‘no like-for-like replacement’.

Now, as an ordinary party member, free from any encumbrance, I’m able to contribute in my own name, as part of the policy working group bringing a consultation paper on nuclear disarmament to conference in September.

So, enough of the flannel, what do I think? Please bear with me – this has been a long time coming and as I’ve been asked to kick off the consultation I’ve been given a little lee-way on word length.

Like many Party members, I struggle with this issue. We all share the hope that nuclear weapons can be permanently put beyond use. But it isn’t in the gift of the UK, let alone the Liberal Democrats, to create a nuclear free world. Nuclear weapons need no longer play such a front line role in our defence. But the UK Government has a responsibility to see the safety of its people, and its allies, now and in the future.

So far, so uncontroversial. The questions I ask myself are this:

First, how can the UK best contribute to global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, without risking our security?

Second, how can the Liberal Democrats, as one (currently small) political voice in this increasingly pluralist country, best deliver that?

Now for the difficult bit – answering them.

A minority in the Party, vocal and passionate, believe that Britain should abolish its nuclear weapons come what may and some argue the Lib Dems would benefit electorally through this.

Another more reticent minority believe that in such a volatile world, Britain’s responsible course is to retain a significant, powerful and active nuclear weapons capability; and that the British people would judge any other position as beyond the political pale.

I think most of us stand somewhere in between.  We get the strong arguments of both these entrenched positions, but seek a practical solution that meets the moral and legal imperative to disarm, and provides the Party with a powerful, progressive argument with which to take on the status quo – and win votes.

Money matters and nuclear weapons don’t come cheap. But, in my view, this is not an argument wholly about cost. The price of abolishing Britain’s nuclear weapons is also not inconsiderable, and the working group has heard evidence that, even if a future government did away with them, financial dividends wouldn’t appear for up to decade.

Even then the dividends would be small, particularly if you believe Britain still needs a future submarine capability and strong armed forces. Further, by the time we get to the next election, this Conservative Government is likely to have tied its successors into contracts that would be very costly to get out of.

Put plainly, at the next election, if the Lib Dems stood on a platform of scrapping Trident altogether, we wouldn’t be able to offer any big and immediate spending commitments off the back of it. “Let’s spend the money on hospitals and schools, not nukes” has appeal, but it is bogus.

In my view, the idea that a different nuclear system may square the circle is riddled with problems. Read the Trident Alternatives Review. You could argue that Britain going back to rolling free-fall nuclear weapons out the back of bombers is politically appealing. But I think even Donald Trump would question that. If Britain is to maintain a nuclear capability, the real room for manoeuvre is on the posture not the platform.

So what do the Lib Dems do? I believe our choice comes down to stick or twist.

The Lib Dems entered the last election with a nuclear weapons policy relevant to today’s geo-political position, where nuclear deterrence can be safely de-emphasised without the need to bristle your missiles. Build fewer boats, maintain the capability, but abolish continuous at sea deterrence, box up the warheads, and hold them as insurance against a future turn of events.

This policy is timeless. It is relevant at the next election, no matter what arrangements the Tories put in place. And it will still be relevant in twenty years’ time, as the new submarines are being completed. It means Britain remains at the top negotiating table, still able to drive the path of rejuvenated disarmament and non-proliferation.

That’s a position I can back – but can the public? Tough one. You save little money for a deterrent that is virtual rather than active. In my view Britain would be no less secure but it is a position that is open to parody. But just like our policy on drugs, it speaks to what many know in their hearts to be true – the Tory position is bombastic overkill. So, as far as people are interested, there is the possibility to gain traction.

The other course is to twist and promise to abolish Britain’s nuclear weapons.

There is a strong moral case for this. But there is also a moral argument for maintaining deterrence. Less emotive, but equally valid. So we have to be careful how we express ourselves. If we want to win people to our cause, making a values-based case is helpful, but adopting a holier than thou attitude is not. It will turn a lot of people off.

The argument for abolition that would sway me is if I was convinced that it would result in threshold states giving up their ambitions and nuclear weapons states cutting back significantly on the path to zero; that it would make the world materially safer, and Britain with it.

I’ve yet to hear any evidence it would. Britain holds just 1% of the world’s nuclear weapons. India, China, and Pakistan look to each other. USA and Russia are conjoined in historical parity. North Korea couldn’t give a fig what we do. And Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia are locked in their own interdependent orbit. France could act, but with Brexit, that is even more unlikely. Regardless, unless we left NATO, Britain would still shelter under its nuclear umbrella, as even the Scottish Nationalist concede.

So to get my vote when a substantive motion comes to conference in the Spring, abolishers will have to show how scrapping Trident will produce a large, practical effect on disarmament, without alienating the public whose support we Liberal Democrats will need if we are to help set Britain’s course.

Stick or twist: I stand ready to be convinced. I have now had my say and in my own words. Fellow Liberal Democrats, over to you.

* Greg Simpson is a former Lib Dem staffer 1997-2009. He has served as Speechwriter to the Secretary of State for Defence and Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. He hold an MA from King's College in War Studies.

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39 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Aug '16 - 5:21pm

    Good article. I’m not very passionate about this issue because I see the pros and cons on all sides. I prefer buying conventional and high tech precision weapons instead, plus possibly more defence research.

    It would be interesting if someone put this option on the table, so far I’ve seen the nuclear planes plan, two nuclear submarine plans, the get rid of them and spend mainly on health, education and overseas aid plan, but not the “get rid of nukes but still meet the Nato 2% plan”.

  • @Eddie Sammon

    Thanks Eddie. I’m not convinced that we can say ‘spend the money on something else’. Certainly in the short-term. If the Lib Dems were put in the position to abolish Trident at the next general election, it wouldn’t be till around 2030 that any savings could be properly realised. Although it would relieve the pressure on the MOD procurement budget which has a number of pinch points between now and then where Vanguard submarine procurement spend begins to bite. It also depends on where the decommissioning costs would be allocated. If they remained in the Defence Budget, then there would be not much more to spend on conventional or precision weapons.

    That’s why I argue that the costs argument is not the basis upon which we should take the decision. It should be a factor, but, for me, not a clincher.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Aug '16 - 5:50pm

    Thanks Greg, good rebuttal!

  • George Lund 19th Aug '16 - 5:59pm

    This is an excellent start to the debate. However I find language like ‘holier than thou’ to describe abolitionists as somewhat patronising. Liberal philosophy underpins our party, and there is a valid moral and ethical case that says these weapons must never be used.

    There is certainly a legal case to be made for that, and while for me legality isn’t crucial, such considerations have led the party to reasonable, differentiated and ultimately vindicated policy positions in the past. I’m thinking, of course, about Iraq.

    In the end I believe the public are not so attached to policies like this as some think. The changing political winds may not always go our way, but if we are confident then – as with Europe – it can be okay, and even to our advantage, to make a clear stand.

  • Tony Dawson 19th Aug '16 - 6:03pm

    There are only two sensible arguments against UK spending more on nuclear offensive replacement. These are “stop pretending you (UK) are something you are not” and “stop pretending the ‘threat’ to UK security is still one which can be deterred.

    The only nuclear war which is likely in the next 30 years will be one started between proxies of the USA and China over a miscalculation in the South China Sea – the same rough area which brought Japan into the 2nd World War. The UK is not likely to be the potential target of any belligerent country which might contemplate either a major ‘conventional’ or a nuclear, chemical or biological threat. The most realistic nuclear threat faced by EC countries will come as a dirty bomb in the back of a lorry delivered by people who we cannot identify particularly with any state so cannot ‘deter’ in any way, shape or form.

    It is foolish for any small nation states in Europe to create a (sic) defence policy on their own, whether this is nuclear or otherwise – or, indeed, to pretend to do so as is the case these days. Britain and France are playing at still being major imperial powers regardless of the cost when our real defence policy is pretty much managed through NATO.

  • Richard Underhill 19th Aug '16 - 6:07pm

    Bill Clinton’s view was that the highest risk was that India and Pakistan might use nuclear weapons against each other without bothering us and that we could not do much about it. “My Life” was published in 2004.
    Possible changes in the Japanese constitution are worrying.

  • @George Lund

    Hi George, thanks for the response, and sorry if the language I used came across as patronising. The point I was trying to make is that if we, certain in the morality of our position, us that as a cudgel to beat those that don’t agree with us, then we’ll find that people will stop listening. Consider how some in the Labour leadership are behaving. Those who believe so strongly in Corbyn’s approach that they accuse any who do not of being ‘Tory scum’ or ‘evil right wingers’ are not likley to win any new travellers to the cause, except those who already agree with them.

    There is a strong moral component to the nuclear weapons debate, and that can’t be ignored, but if we Lib Dems are to stick together through this, I would like us all to respect the moral component of arguments both for and against abolition.

  • jedibeeftrix 19th Aug '16 - 7:53pm

    @ Richard – “Possible changes in the Japanese constitution are worrying.”

    Nothing in Japan’s constitution are worrying, it is simply becoming a normal nation once more.

  • @Mick Humphreys

    Thanks Mick – I agree with most everything you have said. If you believe that we need to maintain an active deterrent, then with the Trident system, 4 boats with a continuous at sea posture, is the way to maintain it. There are options with 3 boats, risking periods where continuous at sea is difficult to maintain, but the savings you get from one less submarine are minimal and you may as well have the four boats.

    However, if you consider that active deterrence in the current security situation is not required, and that no nuclear power is intent on striking the UK at a moments notice, then we have the option to retire our deterrent from active service.

    You can maintain the capability so it can be reinstated. It is not straightforward but it can be done.

    Whether this is an attractive position is what the debate is about.

  • The whole fiasco of the pointless Trident Alternatives Review wonderfully illustrates the wasted years of coalition. A bizarre policy with no political appeal and no mandate from the party and no practical purpose is pursued by Lib Dems in Government to no discernible benefit either in changing Government policy or increasing Lib Dem support. And the author ends up advocating essentially more of the same, a policy which has been tested and failed at the last general election. If the UK has 1% of nuclear weapons, they are irrelevant to deterrence.

  • “The argument for abolition that would sway me is if I was convinced that it would result in threshold states giving up their ambitions and nuclear weapons states cutting back significantly on the path to zero; that it would make the world materially safer, and Britain with it.”

    So which Nuclear Weapons states are we deterring ? India? China? Pakistan? USA? Russia? Israel? Iran ? Saudi Arabia ? France ? Who couldn’t give a fig what we do? That cuts both ways, keeping or scraping Trident. But, we have had nuclear weapons and it has not prevented other countries acquiring such weapons neither has the downsizing of USA/USSR stockpiles led the UK to cut it weapons.

  • @Caracatus

    Thanks for your comments. I wasn’t active in a party political sense during the Coalition, so others will be better at addressing your points about how the Trident Alternatives Review and the party policy that sprang from it were handled internally. I would say however that, in my view, failure at the last election had precious little to do with the Party’s position on Trident renewal – even in Scotland, where the issue has greater purchase.

    On your substantive point about – I agree with you that the UK’s current posture is not actively deterring any other nuclear weapons state from attacking us, because I don’t think that intent currently exists. Though I’m not confident that that will always be the case.

    I also agree that the UK’s possession of nuclear weapons isn’t a huge factor currently in other states’ decision to acquire a capability or downsize their stockpile. However, it could be a factor in future.

    The question is what UK stance is most likley to influence the global picture in the future.

    Both policy options, scrapping Trident altogether or retiring an active deterrent and holding it in trust, have the capacity to influence.

    Abolition would make a big initial splash – and win plaudits from some – but it would diminish our influence over global disarmament in the long-term. The UK would have nothing left to give, and therefore no longer a factor. That is a viable option, but is it the right way to contribute to a nuclear free world? I’m not convinced.

    At the moment, my thinking is that we could best influence the picture by retiring an active deterrent [demonstrating intent], but holding the capability to influence future negotiations.

    That is a judgement, not an empirical truth, which is why I’m open to persuasion that another course offers more leverage.

    I approach the issue with the two questions I asked at the start of my article.

    How can the UK best contribute to disarmament? And how can the Lib Dems best bring that about?

    I don’t think, in current circumstances, that a policy of abolition would serve either purpose.

    I am yet to hear any evidence that a policy of abolition would contribute meaningfully to the Lib Dems long term electoral prospects or to disarmament.

    I am hoping that those who back that stance can provide it.

    Over to you.

  • @ Greg “I am yet to hear any evidence that a policy of abolition would contribute meaningfully to the Lib Dems long term electoral prospects or to disarmament”. Well, that’s a matter of opinion and how much you’re willing to listen, Greg.

    The issue is much more than electoral popularity. It’s about what is morally right and economically sensible. As to popularity, the SNP and the Scottish Greens have not been damaged north of the border by an anti-Trident stance.

    The present Lib Dem policy is seen as wishy washy like some sort of medieval church painting with a wilting fig leaf in the appropriate place. Clarity will bring its reward and demonstrate that the party is still a radical force.

    It is widely perceived that the party establishment are determined to cling on to a post imperial view and have pulled every tactical string in the book to maintain what is an expensive fiction.

  • @David Raw

    Thanks for your comment David.

    I agree with you that a position of abolition provides a clear and unequivocal position. And I agree that it hasn’t damaged the electoral prospects of the SNP and greens in Scotland.

    Having said that, in the UK context, parties that advocated maintaining a the UK’s nuclear weapons status won over 90% of the popular vote. Regardless, I do not believe that the main motivation for choosing who to vote for at a general election comes down to policy on nuclear weapons. It is mood music, not decisive.

    It does have the condition of stamping a party with a brand however. So the question is, in an electoral context, do we want the Lib Dems to have that particular brand.

    You say that this “about what is morally right and economically sensible”.

    Are you saying that if I vote to maintain a nuclear capability at conference, I am somehow ‘immoral’? Are you saying that 90% of the country that voted for parties who wanted to maintain a nuclear capability at the last election are ‘immoral’?

    I’m afraid I do not share your moral certainty.

    As for economically sensible. In the long term, by scrapping our nuclear weapons you can save money. Not in the short-term as I have explained. But still, when it comes to spending money post 2030, I’m not sure we are now in a position to judge what is sensible and what is not.

  • Thank you for your comments, Greg.

    I am sure on a personal level your morals are of the highest standard – of your claimed 90% popular support they will cover the whole range.

    The morality question is to do with whether you would be willing to obliterate several million people and wreck the world’s eco-system by a retaliatory strike.

    As to your supposed 90% support, consider this :

    1.79% of respondents to a Guardian poll in April 2014 did not think the UK should replace Trident.
    2 February 2014 ComRes poll, 65% said they would feel uncomfortable living near a nuclear weapons base and 64% think there should be an international convention banning nuclear weapons.
    3. 63% of the public said they’d back scrapping Trident to reduce the deficit in a BPIX survey for The Mail on Sunday in June 2010.
    4. 58% of people say that ‘given the state of the country’s finances, the Government should scrap the Trident nuclear missile system’ in an Independent/ComRes poll of September 2009 (Table 7)
    5. 54% of the public say Britain should ‘no longer have any nuclear deterrent’ in a Guardian/ICM poll of July 2009

  • @David Raw

    Thanks David. To clarify I don’t claim 90% of people back retaining a nuclear capability, only that their view on the matter doesn’t seem to particularly impact on which party they vote for at a general election.

    The morality questions also includes a judgement as to what is the best way for a country that already possesses nuclear weapons to ensure that the scenario you paint never comes about.

    RE the poll you quote – are the decimal points in the wrong place?

  • @ David Raw

    Sorry David – my mistake, those are 1.,2.,3. not decimal points

    Here is a poll that paints a more nuanced picture from this year.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/trident-majority-of-britons-back-keeping-nuclear-weapons-programme-poll-shows-a6831376.html

    sorry don’t know how to embed links

  • Steve Trevethan 20th Aug '16 - 1:37pm

    Thank you for the interesting article and comments.
    How independent is our control over Trident?
    In which ways are our Trident payments different from tribute payments to the USA?
    How does Germany manage without nuclear defence systems?

  • @Steve Trevethen

    Hi Steve, thanks for responding.

    In terms of independence, I am not the expert on this, but we did receive expert evidence at the working group on this issue. As I understand it, Trident is ‘operationally’ independent for the US. If we wanted to we could use the system without having to rely on American acquiescence. In other words, if the Prime Minister said fire, we could, and our missiles would land where we sent them.

    That is not however the whole story. We do rely on the US to maintain the system. Although the nuclear warhead is British made, the missiles themselves, form which Trident gets its name, are leased from the US and are kept in a pool in King’s Bay, Alabama.

    Our nuclear co-operation is governed by the US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement, on which our friend and colleague, Lord William Wallace, is far more learned than I. Whether the terms of that agreement amount to tribute, I very much doubt.

    If you are suggesting that the UK only retains nuclear weapons in order to curry favour with the US that is certainly up for debate. Our ‘special relationship’ with the US is often cited by those who favour retaining a UK nuclear capability. They fear that unilateral abandonment will prejudice co-operation in other areas, particularly intelligence sharing. Given our shrinking conventional forces, I do think the US would see scrapping Trident as another signal that the UK is actively diminishing its global role. But, frankly, I don’t think that should inordinately impact on the decision in front of the Lib Dems.

  • In terms of Germany, look at 5.2.5 in the Consultation Paper. We could, should we wish, opt for the German position. Shelter under the NATO nuclear umbrella, host and operate US nuclear systems, and maintain the capability, should we wish, to instate a basic warhead and delivery system in extremis.

    However, I sense that is not what you are getting that. Germany doesn’t have nuclear weapons because of a quirk of history. Namely the playing out of the second world war. Indeed, as you probably know, the Manhatten Project was based on German tech. Germany was not in a position to join the nuclear club in the 40s and 50s. And as a signature to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state, with its deterrent supplied by the US, France and the UK, has not legal right to possess nuclear weapons, nor any need.

    This generation, our generation, are not responsible for the fact that the UK is a nuclear weapons state. We are however responsible for whether we choose to maintain that status or abandon it.

  • Dave Orbison 21st Aug '16 - 5:06pm

    Greg – re Germany – I think the question was not ‘why’ Germany does not have their own nuclear weapons but ‘how do they manage without one?’ As you know they do manage and perfectly well too.

    The idea that holding 1% of nuclear arms would enable us to influence anyone in the nuclear debate, one way or another, is fanciful. As for any proposal of ‘boxing them [our nuclear missiles] up’ I see this as simply a fudge. At best I believe would be seen by the public as just that, worse it would be simply reinforce the negative label often used against LibDems of simply ‘sitting on the fence’. As such I do not think it will accepted as credible.

    I do not agree that scrapping Trident would not save money. Nor do I think this scrapping Trident would mean we would have to increase our armed forces by x10, x100 or x1000 or whatever the pro-nuclear folk argue. To what end? These forces would be of no use in a nuclear conflict as we would all be ‘done for’. Retaining a small nuclear capability will not stop a conflict between the major players if that were to happen. In fact, it would simply make us a certain target.

    The funds that would be spent on Trident could and should be spent on other actual and immediate threats to our citizens; terrorism, climate change, ill health (mental and physical) and a chronic housing shortage to name but a few.
    Both the Labour Party and LibDems should take heart from Scotland and have the courage to campaign for a policy which would meet actual needs rather than something more suited to a war game scenario.

    I have not always been a supporter of unilateralism. However, for decades now I have heard multilateralists argue ‘now is not the time’ but ‘one day we will secure nuclear disarmament if only we kept weapons a little longer’. Well it’s just not going to happen. In the meantime, money we spend ‘boxing-up’, retaining or upgrading nuclear weapons is money we could, and in my opinion, should spend on real and immediate needs.

  • @ Dave Orbison. Absolutely spot on. The present policy is a fudge, and it looks as if the party High Hiedyins are edging crab-like to some sort of continuation of said fudge.

    A constant criticism of the party from outside is of being ‘all things to all men’ – in practice this really means being nothing to everyone.

    By the way, Greg, I don’t think the few surviving WW11 veterans would appreciate that business being called ‘a quirk of history’ – nor do I regard Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a ‘quirk of history’.

  • @ Dave Orbison

    Hi Dave, thanks for your comment.

    I thought I had answered, the how do they get by Germany question. They shelter under the NATO nuclear umbrella. We could do that too. Only the UK position is different. Germany has never been a nuclear power. The UK is. So our choice is different to the Germans.

    Scrapping Trident would mean, in the long term, not having a large procurement commitment in the Defence Budget, and not spending money on maintenance costs. For up to a decade after abolition, the ‘savings’ would likely be spent on decommissioning the warheads, missiles, faslane, barrow, aldermaston etc. Beyond that it depends how much th government choose to tax and to spend. I’m afraid there isn’t just a pot of money that has been put aside to pay for this that can be redirected.

    But I do take your point that abolition is a clear and unequivocal policy.

    The question is whether its the right one?

  • @ David Raw,

    Apologies for any offence. Bad choice of words.

  • We’d probably get a better view of true support for Trident if we moved it as close to London as it is currently close to Glasgow; ie less than 30 miles.

  • Dave Orbison 22nd Aug '16 - 12:08am

    @Greg But the choice between stay as we are with a funded nuclear capability vs switching to that of Germany is exactly the choice that lies before us.

    There is no reason not to switch. We would not be any less secure than Germany, we would still be within the NATO umbrella.

    We would not be burdened with the cost. Whatever you say about the costs of decommissioning, the non-nuclear option has to be cheaper. Whatever the timeline, ultimately funds will be freed to spend on other current and actual needs/threats.

    In my view that money, whenever it becomes available, is better spent dealing with real needs rather than holding on to the delusion that having 1% of nuclear arms would be either a deterrent or a bargaining chip to secure worldwide nuclear disarmament.

  • @ Greg. Appreciate your courtesy.

  • Ronald Murray 22nd Aug '16 - 10:28am

    Excellent article I should like to make a point nobody else does. As a nuclear power it beggars belief that we have no Civil Defence for wartime. We have had Civil Protection, Home Defence, Emergency Planning now Resilience over the years. Up to 1968 when Labour destroyed the Auxiliary Fire Service, National Hospital Reserve and the Civil Defence Corps to save money, we had the best equipped and trained CD volunteers in the world. Civil Defence members and equipment helped at Abervan and other emergencies. Now the emergency services have no reserve. If Labour had wanted to save money they should have cancelled the nuclear weapons programme it would have saved more. One cannot help thinking that many secret bunkers remain for the elite. Pre 1968 we had less preparedness for civil emergencies now the situation is reversed. When Teresa May said she would press the Nuclear button, she omitted to mention if the USA agreed.

  • Ronald Murray 22nd Aug '16 - 10:34am

    Dare I add that we could have a national service type Civil Defence. Which given the breadth of training required would equip youngsters for careers across the board especially the unqualified.

    Also terrorist incidents could be easily handled with a trained CD force to call out.

    I served in the Aux Fire Service while at college and retained an interest over the years and am a member of the Institution of Civil Protection and Emergency Management althouth these posts represent my personal opinion not the ICPEM(originally the Institute of Civil Defence founded 1938)

  • @ Dave Orbison.

    Thanks for setting out your view so clearly.

    I hope I don’t do you a disservice by boiling it down to the fact that you see the money spent on Trident as a diversion of resources from other pressing issues, and that the UK’s small nuclear capability neither deters nor can contribute meaningfully to disarmament.

    I see the UK’s investment in our nuclear capability as an investment in our future security and global influence over nuclear disarmament.

    I hope that the policy paper coming forward will set out a practical plan for how the UK can help drive a renewal of the disarmament process – and that this at least, we can all agree on.

  • @ Ronald Murray

    Civil Defence is not my area of expertise although I did work for a short while on the MOD’s preparedness for the Olympics. I’m sure your points are well made.

    And interesting speech on the military’s role in civil defence Nick Harvey made when he was Minister of State in the MOD, can be found here:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/2011-10-14-supporting-civilian-authority-what-role-for-the-military–2

  • Greg 22nd Aug ’16 – 12:38pm…….I see the UK’s investment in our nuclear capability as an investment in our future security and global influence over nuclear disarmament…….

    Sorry, Greg, but I fail to see how ‘upgrading’ our nuclear weaponry will influence nuclear disarmament; quite the opposite.
    However, If by that you mean that ‘at some future time’ (horrible phrase) we might agree to disarm, then why not now?

  • @expats

    Thanks for commenting.

    I’m not advocating upgrading our nuclear weapons capability, but the opposite, downgrading it to a reserve capability rather than an active one.

    I would also be prepared to advocate scrapping I entirely if I thought it would lead to similar actions from other nuclear weapons states.

    As it probably won’t, I would prefer the UK to maintain its place in the P5 in the hope that the circumstances will change.

    As I have said, I would like to see a positive and practical policy proposals for renewing the momentum of disarmament negotiations. Its not my specialist area, but the working group is speaking to experts who can help us formulate ambitious but realistic proposals.

  • Steve Trevthan 22nd Aug '16 - 6:32pm

    Again, thanks to all for a considered conversation on an important question.
    The more important the matter, the greater is the need to consider it from more than one perspective. Here are some comments and questions on “internal factors” relating to Trident.

    The Dolgorukiy class submarine is the Russian equivalent of Trident. It is made by the Sevmash company which is financed by the Russian state owned VEB bank. In April of 2011, VEB signed an agreement for a syndicated loan worth 2.4 billion dollars from 19 non Russian banks which included Barclays, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland, which is 84% owned by the British State/us. RBS also “invests” in 10 companies which are involved with Trident. [From an article in Global Research entitled, “Britain’s Trident Nuclear “Deterrent”: How the Banks Have their Finger on the Button.” by Steve Topple 29/02/16. It is well worth reading.]

    Thus “our” banks help to pay for the nuclear armaments of our actual and/or alleged enemy, Russia. RBS enables British taxpayers to pay for both the Russian and British nuclear deterrents.

    Why are we spending to facilitate our being both attacked and defended?
    Who in Government, Parliament, the senior Civil Service, the senior Naval military, the relevant industries and the Main Stream Media, especially the public service BBC knows about this?
    If not, why not?
    It appears impossible for the relevant banks not to know. If the Government does not know what the State 84% owned RBS is doing, then there is a need for detailed explanations on governance and trust.
    Other “leaders” of the national institutions listed above may have more of an excuse for ignorance but part of their duty of trust is to be vigilant.

    If they do know there are at least three questions:
    What are the purposes of such a perplexing policy?
    Why have we, the citizens, tax-payers and bank-bailers not been informed/explained to?
    Who has benefited from this policy and/or practice and how?

  • @ Steve Trevthan

    Thanks for bringing this issue to our attention. Its a new one for me. Well worth investigating and it raises some very serious issues. Time for some well placed Parliamentary Question if the research can be verified.

  • Neil Sandison 23rd Aug '16 - 11:46am

    I think one thing we need to do is demonstrate multilateralism isn’t the same as the status quo .That the Liberal Democrats start our policy with a clear and concise call for nuclear de-escalation .If Great Britain alongside our other European allies made it abundantly clear through the UN that we wanted see SALT talks refreshed and renewed the world would be a safer place. The real problem with Trident isn’t the number of submarines boats have many functions other than weapons carriers .But the overkill in the number of ballistic warheads it has. Which is why many of us believe it is not like for like replacement.

  • @ Neil Sandison

    Thanks for your comment and I agree wholeheartedly.

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