Tag Archives: trident

Why the Party should reject calls to sign to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

In July 2017, a UN Conference on Nuclear Weapons comprised of 124 states voted 122 – 1 – 1 in favor of creating a Treaty to ban nuclear weapons; only The Netherlands voted against, and Singapore abstained. Though the Conference Vote itself results in no legal obligations on the UN Member States, the Treaty opened for signature on 20 September 2017.  As of today, 59 states have signed it, and 11 have ratified it; 90 days after 50 states have ratified the Treaty, it will come into force – currently a distant prospect.

Kevin White wrote an article for LDV on 11 July highlighting his second attempt backed by 156 party members to get FCC to consider a motion at Autumn Conference committing the Party to “to campaign for the UK to add its name to the list of signatories to the Treaty” – and presumably ratify the Treaty.

Speaking as a multilateralist who has consistently opposed Trident replacement on the grounds that it is too expensive – it will consume between a quarter and a third of the MoD procurement budget each year between now and the mid-2030s – and Trident is a level of capability that the UK no longer needs. As an academic international lawyer, I understand the attraction of a Treaty that would ban nuclear weapons and lead to global nuclear zero – an aspiration that I fully support.

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Is Trident’s successor a white elephant?

On Saturday afternoon Spring Conference debates motion F11 “Towards a World Free of Nuclear Weapons” which actually endorses the government’s plans to replace Trident with Successor at a cost of £200 billion, twice the original estimate.  The motion also talks about developing multilateral negotiations and ending Continuous-at-sea Deterrence (CASD) but in essence it supports a like-for-like deterrent, which we opposed through the coalition years.

I was on the working group which drafted the report which this motion approves, but I don’t agree. I’m tabling an amendment which agrees with most of the motion’s analysis and call for beefing up negotiations but also calls for Trident to be phased out and NOT replaced.

Many party members have long supported ending the UK’s nuclear weapons but others have placed their faith in nuclear deterrence on balance.  People may feel the global security situation inclines them more than ever to support replacing Trident with the Successor programme.  The argument can be summarised as “Oh my God, Putin !, Oh my God, Trump !  We better have our own nukes”.  I originally felt that the party’s latest working group on the subject was a waste of time.  Nothing had changed.  But I was wrong.  

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Labour blocks Trident debate to avoid embarrassment for Corbyn

As if there wasn’t going to be enough fun and games at Labour’s Conference next week, it now appears that they will not get the chance to debate the thorny issue of Trident, which will no doubt upset a lot of people.

Motions on both sides of the argument, including one submitted by a Scottish Labour constituency called on conference to note that cancelling Trident would “result in thousands of redundancies” at “world-class engineering centres” in Barrow, Derby, Faslane and Rosyth.”

A motion from the area which most benefits from the jobs created by the submarine base at Faslane in favour of renewal was rejected.

From the Mirror:

The move follows fears that Mr Corbyn, a former vice chair of CND and a long-standing opponent of Trident , would have lost if the issue was pushed to a vote.

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Have party members come any closer to a common view on nuclear weapons?

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. 741  party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Nuclear weapons have always been a tricky issue for Liberal Democrats. In Bournemouth last year, the vote on whether to renew Trident was knife-edge close. We’ve been fudging the issues for years and the day of reckoning approaches. The Bournemouth  debate resulted in a working group being set up to fully investigate the possibilities.  They outline five options in a consultation paper here.

The first 3 options provide for some sort of nuclear weapon. They are supported by 59.11% but only 23.62% support like for like replacement.

Continue with the successor programme to Trident  23.62%

Contingency posture (partial replacement) 25.37%

Airborne Deterrent 10.12%

The two options which don’t involve having nuclear weapons are supported by 40.89%

Virtual capability 9.31%

Zero option 31.58%

Does this mean that the divide is growing? We’ll have to wait till Spring Conference in York to find out.

Here are some of the comments people made:

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged and | 9 Comments

How nuclear weapons violate your rights

 

Most of us have an idea how nuclear bombs work; history has taught us just how destructive they are. However, the argument still persists that world peace can only be achieved when the most powerful nations have enough of them to guarantee upon each other, mutually assured destruction. At this present time, with the renewal of Trident firmly on the Government’s agenda, I feel now is a good time for people to express their views on the morality, legality, and practicality of utilizing nuclear weapons.

The after effects of detonating nuclear bombs are well documented. The fallout unleashed by current nuclear weapons would create an environment that is so radioactive that future generations of people will almost certainly be affected by it. This situation leads to a challenging question: If generations that had nothing to do with a war that was fought at a time prior to their birth, but suffer the effects of that war even after it has ended, then is that not a catastrophic infringement of article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that states: ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family’ (Un.org, 2016)? If you have to suffer radiation poisoning through no fault of your own, through actions that took place before you were born, then how can it be said your right to a healthy life is being protected?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 38 Comments

With his Trident stance Corbyn shows himself to be no fan of ‘new politics’

Few words stir the heart of the politically interested than ‘a new politics’, and quite right too, for who on earth wants the status quo?

But the utterer of that rather normative phrase is immediately pitched a political challenge, to keep on board those who are the bedrock of their support, while also delivering something challenging enough to be new.

Jeremy Corbyn is a man with far less personal ambition than he has integrity and honour, and that may be ‘new’ for a politician in the UK right now, but it is not enough to qualify as ‘new politics’.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 13 Comments

Labour and Trident

I would have thought it almost impossible to come up with a Trident policy dafter than the one the Liberal Democrats were saddled with at the last general election, but Jeremy Corbyn and his trade union colleagues seem to have done just that. They are seriously proposing buying the submarines but no warheads. The submarines are to be a job-creation scheme to satisfy unions who care more about their members’ jobs than about the overall national interest. These giant submarines are the main cost of the Trident renewal program, £16bn for the four of them? Who knows exactly?

Posted in Op-eds | 29 Comments

Words I can’t mention

 

I learned a valuable lesson on LDV last week and that is that there are some words so emotionally charged that their mere mention provokes a pre-programmed response more incendiary than the sight of a cat to a Staffy. So while I wanted to talk about the Lib Dem take on populist green causes I naively opened my piece with a discussion of the F-word and at that point lost my audience. I won’t make the mistake of stepping on that particular land mine again, you know the one I mean, the issue of vulpine persecution, Basil Brush meets the Hound of the Baskervilles?

Another topical tantrum trigger, one that is splitting Corbyn’s Labour party this week is the T-word – Neptune’s toasting fork (7 letters). No, I can’t say it for fear of unleashing a figurative Armageddon on the terrors of the real thing and blowing any chance of getting to the punch line.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 26 Comments

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”.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 56 Comments

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.)

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 12 Comments

“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.

Posted in Conference | Also tagged | 5 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 33 Comments

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.

Posted in Conference, Op-eds and The Independent View | Also tagged and | 3 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 17 Comments

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.  

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 130 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 39 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 28 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 26 Comments

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!

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 34 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 37 Comments

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.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , and | 19 Comments
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