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.

Conference rejects the projected spending of £100billion on the system over its lifetime, believing the money could be better spent.

Conference therefore calls for the plans to renew the Trident system to be scrapped, and for the earliest decommissioning of the existing Trident force.”

The group has contacted Tim Farron and Norman Lamb and both have expressed the view that the Party should discuss Trident.

The decision on Trident will be taken by Parliament in 2016 and it is therefore essential that we discuss it at September’s Conference.

The Federal Conference Committee meets on Saturday to consider motions submitted to it.

It is clear that of all the issues debated in Party forums and social media groups over the past few months, Trident is a key one that Conference should be permitted to discuss.

We therefore call upon the FCC to accept the Trident motion, which has been submitted by some 120 Conference Voting Reps and the Liverpool Local Party, for discussion.

* Kevin White is Chair of LibDems Against Trident. He was a member of the last LibDem working group on nuclear weapons and was a member of the pre-merger Liberal Party's Defence and Disarmament Panel

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  • David Blake 10th Jul '15 - 9:23am

    Those like me who couldn’t find the Facebook page note it’s LIBDEMS AGAINST TRIDENT. Just search for AGAINST TRIDENT and you’ll find it.

  • Liberal Neil 10th Jul '15 - 10:18am

    We definitely need to debate this and come up with a clear position. The current fudge is embarrassing.

  • Chris Rennard 10th Jul '15 - 10:31am

    Even if amended, this resolution must be debated. We need some clear positions that distinguish us from Labour and the Conservatives. It would in my view be both principles and popular to remain in NATO, but like most member states not to try to maintain a very expensive and unnecessary independent deterrent like Trident.

  • Steve Coltman 10th Jul '15 - 10:33am

    Depends on what you actually want to achieve here. If it is just political positioning, clear blue water between us and Labour and the Tories, well why not advocate disarmament? It won’t happen in the real world of course, the Tories and Labour will have a majority in parliament for the like-for-like renewal and they have not the wit nor imagination to suggest anything else. There are three possible alternatives to Trident, all based on the Astute class submarines, that might tempt the Tories and Labour to change their minds. Now that really would be a good objective to aim for, it might save the UK taxpayer a large sum of money and allow stronger conventional forces. It would make a difference in the real world as opposed to just empty political posturing. I do agree we should drop our current policy, it’s an embarrassment and not the fault of the defence policy working group (of which I was a member) – it was handed down to us from ‘above’.

  • The link for the LIBDEMS AGAINST TRIDENT group is https://www.facebook.com/groups/855017081205443/

  • paula keaveney 10th Jul '15 - 11:36am

    The motion as written is deliberately shorter than many that appear on the agenda at conference so that it can be amended if that is what local parties/reps etc want to do. The topic certainly should be debated and the level of support for this motion hopefully will make it something FCC very seriously consider. We had a good discussion around this at a Liverpool Lib Dem members’ meeting recently and although the vote in favour wasn’t unanimous it was pdc!

  • I believe that the UK should scrap Trident/nuclear weapons on purely morale grounds (weapon of mass destruction ), the cash saved is just a bonus. As Cllr Wright mentions we must use this debate to call on all nuclear powers to give them up – but for us to lead by example…..no ifs no buts……

  • If Trident does end up being scrapped then the savings should be put into conventional forces.

  • Good luck.

    Our current policy of half-Trident is bonkers and even worse than having full Trident!

  • Simon Foster 10th Jul '15 - 1:36pm

    This for me currently is the second most important issue for conference, and I believe strongly it should be debated.

    (The first most important issue for me is whether we get a room to watch Dr Who in, obviously 😉 ).

  • TCO ‘the savings should be put into conventional forces- ‘. IMO our ‘forces’ should have a dual role – defence & emergency humanitarian relief/aid – for world disasters which they do to a certain extent already. Good Foreign Policy IMO – preserving life not taking it.

  • @Greenfield in WW2 the Germans had an organisation called Technische Nothilfe (TeNo) which were used as disaster recovery specialists in bombed out cities. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technische_Nothilfe

    Armed Forces can act very ably in emergencies, but you need to ensure that you have a sufficient trained force available to meet defence commitments.

    Perhaps better to recruit a separate organisation?

  • David Faggiani 10th Jul '15 - 5:28pm

    Support radically scaling down our nukes, yes.

  • jedibeeftrix 10th Jul '15 - 6:42pm

    thank you, mark. much obliged.

  • I hope that this motion gets on the agenda. It’s clear and to the point unlike motions that ramble on trying to cover lots of ground. Old fashioned terminology like”unilateralism” belonged in a bipolar world. Policy should be settled on points of principle before we get bogged down in details of implementation.

  • A Social Liberal 11th Jul '15 - 1:45am

    I agree that our present policy isn’t fit for purpose but it was voted in by conference just two years ago. Should we keep on having re-votes until we get the answer the anti nuclear lobby wants?

  • Given that with the Successor submarines and some other system refurbishment, the Trident missiles themselves are expected to go end of life in circa 2042 (a little over half a average person’s working life away). I suggest that whilst we can get excited about the Trident system, the bigger issue is actually it’s successor, given that thanks to adherence to the nuclear test ban, both the US and UK have not conducted any new tests, something a new warhead will require; as there is only so much you can do with computer modelling and simulation.

    I suspect once we address this very real issue and the implications it will have on our military relationships, what to do here and now with Trident will become much simpler.

  • The time has surely come to accept that Trident will be renewed and well on the way to development and deployment by the time of the next election. Now is not the time to indulge in unilateral nuclear disarmament, with a Russia which is keen to probe for any sign of cracks in Europe and the NATO alliance. Opposition to Trident is both wrong and a waste of time.

  • keep trident the way it is. 2BN a year is not large in the big scheme of things.

  • @Simon Boyd: The whole point of politics is not accepting what powerful interests claim is inevitable, but proposing alternatives and fighting for them.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Jul '15 - 4:07pm

    “Chris Rennard
    1) Even if amended, this resolution must be debated.
    2) We need some clear positions that distinguish us from Labour and the Conservatives.
    3) It would in my view be both principles and popular to remain in NATO, but like most member states not to try to maintain a very expensive and unnecessary independent deterrent like Trident.”

    1) Yes debate
    2) Not for this reason! The overwhelming issue are about defence (actually threat of counter-attack) and cost.
    A general election manifesto in 2020 might produce a Labour – Liberal Democrat coalition or a Labour – SNP coalition, which might not be didtinctive on this issue.
    3) Some reduction in the capacity of others might be possible.
    4) Is Trident really independent? Does the UK, for instance, depend on components from the USA?

  • Chris Burden 11th Jul '15 - 10:34pm

    To call Trident ‘independent’ is simply ludicrous. It is unthinkable that any UK govt. would even consider using it except in concert with the US, as part of the US Strategic Deterrent. But it is paid for by the UK taxpayer.
    MPs and govt. spokespeople who use this term must think we are idiots, and probably laugh accordingly.

  • Many thanks to the Federal Conference Committee for agreeing to place the motion on the September Conference Agenda. I sincerely hope that the Party will vote for the motion. We are now very close to adopting a motion which will set us apart from the Tories and Labour.

  • “Is Trident really independent? ” (jedibeeftrix 12th Jul ’15 – 11:13am)

    I think need to also look at Trident within it’s military and political context. The UK nuclear deterrent is one of the key planks of the USA-UK military relationship – the others being our special forces and intelligence services. So not maintaining the Trident system (by building Successor submarines) will have implications for UK-US relations, also given the other NATO/European country with nuclear weapons is France, the wrong decision could result in the UK being sidelined… So I would say no, our nuclear deterrent isn’t independent, it is part of our membership subscription to the military club(s) we belong to, which we pay by providing a service rather than contributing real money to some central bank/treasury who then dispenses it as ‘regional aid’.

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