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

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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.  

That’s why I’m going to vote for that amendment, and I would like those of you who have a vote at conference to consider doing so as well.

I have immense respect for Julian and the other colleagues who have submitted the original motion, and I have discussed this issue with him. When we adopt a position on Trident I want to make sure it’s one that stands up to the scrutiny that will inevitably come, and I just don’t feel this motion does that. That’s why I’m asking conference to agree for a reference back so more work can be done.

Undoubtedly the lure of a definitive, ‘no ifs, no buts’ position on nuclear disarmament is seductive. It’s true that we are no longer locked in a cold war climate and the costs of Trident replacement are staggering – particularly in the current austerity world we live in. At estimated costs of almost £25bn for a like-for-like replacement over the cost of the programme, it’s hard to argue that we are getting value for money. As Conference argued a couple of years ago, we do not need a continuous armed nuclear patrol and we should not be asked to foot the bill for it.

That’s why I am absolutely clear that Lib Dems will vote against renewal of the current Trident programme if it comes before the House of Commons. What’s more, we’ll work to push for this vote to happen because there is absolutely no reason why the Tory government should be allowed to wave through a decision on such an important issue.

We should say loud and clear that Lib Dems don’t support like-for-like replacement of Trident and I will happily lead the charge.

But the question then is what next, and I’m not sure that the motion tabled at conference really gives us any answers. In our current uncertain international climate, looking in particular to the unpredictability of Putin, I think as a party we need to be absolutely clear about the implications of disarmament. We need to be absolutely sure that neither our security nor that of our neighbours is compromised by this decision. We also need to consider the implications for our foreign relations and our standing in the world. These are not simple issues.

The current motion doesn’t answer those questions, and we also risk dismissing other credible policy positions which could potentially start us on the path to nuclear disarmament more quickly and be more likely to bring other nuclear states along with us.

I know that it is an issue people rightly feel strongly about – I feel strongly about it as well.  Please do post your thoughts in the comments below and as much as I can I will try to reply to as many as I can.

 

* Tim Farron is Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Refugees and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale.

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130 Comments

  • Glad to hear your thoughts on this, Tim. I was sad that we aren’t getting a wider debate on defence issues. I agree with Harry (and perhaps with you too?) that a multilateral approach bringing other nuclear states with us is infinitely preferable. Will be interested to see which amendments are selected for debate.

  • Stephen Yolland 14th Sep '15 - 2:05pm

    Tim, as a Christian, how can you support any potential use of weapons of mass destruction against innocent civilians?

  • What are your views on the current policy – caricatured as a part-time deterrence – where the submarines carrying nuclear weapons are not always at sea?

    As I understand it, the policy dictates that if they weren’t at sea, but that an event requiring them to be at sea was to occur, they could be launched at short notice. Do you agree that this could severely escalate international situations that are already tricky?

    Do you believe that either continuous-at-sea deterrence or disarmament would be better, safer policies, than the current approach?

  • Michael Chappell 14th Sep '15 - 2:11pm

    So what not-like-for-like Trident replacement would you support? Or rather, what would you vote to replace Trident with?

  • Stephen Howse 14th Sep '15 - 2:11pm

    This is excellent, Tim. It’s nuanced and equivocal, but it has to be because foreign affairs is a messy and compromise-filled place. As Harry says, multilateral disarmament must be the goal. If we and other western powers simply give up our nuclear weapons unilaterally, what incentive is there for regimes like Iran and Saudi Arabia to do the same?

  • I am very much in favour of not renewing Trident and not replacing with any nuclear weaponry – but then I am unilateralist. However, if we are to have nuclear weapons we cannot continue with a policy of part-time Trident, it is ridiculous for many reasons and we look ridiculous for proposing it!

  • On a related post from George Potter this morning (9.24 am) I pointed out that it is very easy to forget the cost of peace.

    At the conference are people going to be reminded that scrapping like for like replacement may not be some panacea to cure the financial ills of the Country? It may cost more to replace Trident with a credible conventional force.

  • Simon mcgrath 14th Sep '15 - 2:17pm

    Tim

    Have you seen the Centre forum report on how we can have limited nuclear weapons and strengthen our conventional forces, particularly the Royal Navy, at the same time?
    http://www.centreforum.org/index.php/mainpublications/316-dropping-the-bomb

  • While this comes across as a but of a fudge I’m glad to see Tim won’t support this motion which is reckless both politically and militarily.

  • Peter Bancroft 14th Sep '15 - 2:23pm

    A sensible approach from Tim. The reality is that we probably could get rid of all of our nuclear weapons as we could rely on the U.S.’s nuclear umbrella and their continued ownership of the European security situation. The question is whether we believe this is fair or whether we trust the future of American policy enough. I don’t, so do think that we have a duty to take some ownership for our continent.

  • If Denmark, Germany and Italy – all nearer to Putin than us – can do without these expensive weapons, why can’t we?

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Sep '15 - 2:28pm

    Not a Lib Dem member, just a party voter. I don’t want unilateral disarmament and I am actually concerned that the current Lib Dem policy is a kind of unilateral disarmament. However, I think Tim’s position is better than the conference motion of scrapping it completely.

  • Emma-Louise Rose 14th Sep '15 - 2:33pm

    I agree, the Trident replacement is unnecessary. Personally I am against any form of nuclear weaponry because they hurt far too many innocent people. Although it could be argued that it will keep us safe, I believe it will also mean that we are seen as more of a threat. And after reading several posts and articles I was a little shocked to learn that alongside spending £500m on this, the Conservative Government are at the same time planning cuts that will lead to the loss of 22,000 police jobs! Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t the police force a little more important than nuclear weapons? I can only hope that we have enough support to push this vote through.

  • paula keaveney 14th Sep '15 - 2:42pm

    No the current motion doesn’t provide all the answers – mainly because it is a motion not a 64 page policy document! It is however a good and principled statement of intent which has got itself onto the agenda having been supported by the highest number of signatories I can remember for a policy motion.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 14th Sep '15 - 2:42pm

    Good piece, Tim. I agree with the comments above that we should support multilateral disarmament, moving to some form of non-Trident nuclear deterrent in the meantime. I would be happy to see us adopting Toby Fenwick’s CentreForum proposal.

    It is regrettable that FCC chose such a badly-drafted motion for debate. Of all the issues, this is one that deserves a clear, considered motion. Hopefully there will be a sensible amendment to support.

  • The £25 billion that Tim quotes is the actual cost of developing and building four new Trident submarines – usually referred to as the ‘Successor Programme’. The £100 billion figure is CNDs estimate of the cost of the development, building and running of four submarines and all their missiles and the crewing and operation of the whole programme including keeping at least one submarine at sea at all times over the next forty years.

    To put this into some context the total procurement budget of the MoD for the next ten years is £63 billion. In the same period the Successor Programme is forecast to cost £16 billion – 25% of the whole procurement budget!

    Over the next forty years the UK might spend something in the order of £1,440 billion on defence so the CND estimate of £100 billion is only actually 7% of the grand total.

    Now, to those of you who don’t want nuclear weapons this 7% seems a huge waste but to those who favour keeping a constant at sea deterrent this seems like value for money if it succeeds in stopping a nuclear attack on the UK!!!

    The trouble with the Lib Dem position of keeping the deterrent at 3 submarines and only setting to sea when required is that this is unlikely to save anything more than about 1% of the defence budget in the long run. It’s simply not even a significant part of the defence budget let alone the budget of the Government as a whole!

  • Trevor Stables 14th Sep '15 - 2:47pm

    Tim,
    I follow the argument you make but what ARE the steps you believe should be taken that will take us more quickly to the disarmament we all desire?

  • Mick Taylor 14th Sep '15 - 2:55pm

    No Tim. You are wrong.

    1. Multilateralism hasn’t worked during there whole of my lifetime. No state -with the possible exception of Libya – has given up nuclear weapons and many more states have acquired them. Please explain why you think a policy that has consistently failed for over 50 years will succeed now.
    2. Please explain why you think the UK requires a nuclear defence force when most of the rest of the EU (except France) and large successful countries like Canada, and Australia do not possess nuclear weapons or wish to acquire them.
    3. As a Quaker I believe we must work for peace and not threaten war. I want our country to take the lead in nuclear disarmament and voluntarily and without preconditions give up nuclear weapons. Personally I do not want to spend more money on conventional forces, but I recognise that the party may feel compelled to offer this as part of its defence policy. As a Christian, how can you justify keep;ing nuclear weapons for even a moment longer?

  • Richard Underhill 14th Sep '15 - 2:57pm

    The above comments do not debate the timing. The Liberal Democrat conference meets before the Labour conference. The press and media are full of Labour Party and TUC politics. Trident will be a test of the Labour leader’s authority and ability to lead. He has had difficulties appointing a defence spokesman/woman and it might be unwise to take the spotlight off him.

    The other issue is the Ukraine, which agreed to give up ex-Soviet nuclear weapons to a Russia that was perceived as more stable and more secure, but which has since found itself dragged back into Moscow’s concept of the “near abroad”.

    Former Defence Secretary, former Tory, Michael Portillo has expressed his strongly held view on BBC TV that other parts of the UK armed forces should have priority for spending. Liberal Democrat federal conference will probably listen to its most experienced and most respected members.

  • W Morningstar 14th Sep '15 - 2:57pm

    I already posted the comment to Tim’s Facebook, but I’ll post it here too. If you had the choice of creating a deterrent that isn’t nuclear, but cleaner, cheaper and safer to handle, what would you choose that can still be a considerable threat to global enemies?

  • How can anyone possibly “lead the charge” if they can’t answer the question “what next”?

  • John Mitchell 14th Sep '15 - 3:08pm

    I find myself in the minority with Harry Samuels and feel that a like-for-like replacement is necessary and desirable. I share my own position with others that multilateral nuclear disarmament is the only sensible and responsible way forward. Unfortunately, I don’t currently see international signs that this is the direction of travel.

    I take a different view to that of you Tim and the party on NATO. I believe that this is more of a Cold War relic than Trident and gives the UK less autonomy in decision making in defensive areas. Granted, Britain’s current nuclear deterrent is already heavily reliant on the United States and it’s difficult to see how that will change without significant and currently unaffordable further expenditure . All the points that have been made on Britain potentially losing influence in the world would apply to either withdrawing from NATO or not renewing Trident. As it happens it doesn’t seem as if the Liberal Democrats will put this at risk but I think the UK should be having a rethink if anything about NATO and what the purpose of the nuclear military alliance is as opposed to our own interdependent nuclear deterrent.

  • Steven Mather 14th Sep '15 - 3:08pm

    I can totally understand people wanting rid of any WMD’s, especially nukes which can still annihilate the world if MAD was somehow triggered. But I look at the world today and worry that we are in a less stable position than we were in the later stages of the cold war. With the situation with ISIS and Putin’s warmongering it seams suicidal to unilaterally disarm. Given this, if we can reduce the cost of a nuclear program while still retaining our capability it would help us immensely. Personally I would love us to have our own program so that we weren’t so dependant on the US.

  • I’m open minded over whether we should adopt a unilateral or multilateral approach to disarmament.

    The unilateral arguments are attractive: most EU states and Canada do not posses nuclear weapons, yet despite the unstable world we live in, they are not seeking to acquire these weapons. Why not? If the world is so dangerous as we claim, why aren’t these developed nations building nuclear weapons? The answer could be they rely upon NATO to provide nuclear defence and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty forbids new states acquiring these weapons. Why can’t we join these states in such an arrangement? I note that former Defence Secretary Michael Portillo is now in favour of us disarming and that the former Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr Rowan Williams) has written persuasive arguments against retaining such weapons.

    The multilateral argument that we shouldn’t degrade NATO capability whilst non-NATO nuclear states retain their full capability is strong, particularly given our close defence relationship with NATO partners. It may be more effective if NATO were to negotiate multilateral disarmament, rather than the UK to try and do so on our own. There is a powerful argument in favour of retention because nuclear weapons have prevented total war between major world powers – the doctrine of M.A.D.

    Because I’m not fully persuaded by either option, I would support our current position which is to degrade our own nuclear arsenal whilst retaining a credible strike capability.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 14th Sep '15 - 3:12pm

    Mick Taylor – I am not sure of your age, but if you are older than 21 you are wrong on the facts. Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal after the Budapest Memorandum in 1994.

    (And look how well that worked out for them!)

  • Chris Randall 14th Sep '15 - 3:12pm

    I would have like to comment on the fact that 3 Sub’s waiting for the occasion to set to sea is a silly concept. You either have or don’t have nuclear Sub’s. Like you either have or don’t have a nuclear deterrent. The deterrent could be loaded on all ships as a cruise missile or mounted on airplanes. I am not against the possibility but do think when the size of forces is questionable you should at least have something that can be called an Army a Navy and an Air force . This is what is the problem is not anything else you must have a decent conventional forces. That meet a an international standards of size and strengths.

  • Jonathan Pile 14th Sep '15 - 3:17pm

    @ Mick Taylor
    Multilateralism doesn’t work. – There are many countries who have cancelled their nuclear programmes by international negotiation including Argentina, South Africa, Libya and more recently Iran. Ukraine gave up it’s nuclear weapons and no has been invaded by Russia. Iraq secretly gave up it’s nuclear programme and sadly did not share information on this in 2003 and got invaded by America & Britain. So possession of Nuclear weapons by Britain from 1952 has given Russia pause for thought & the insanity of Mutual Assured Destruction has kept the peace. Multilateral disarmament has seen a reduction in Nuclear Warheads in USA, Russia & Britain. A Trident replacement is unaffordable for the UK, we ought to look at SSBN submarine life extension for the existing Trident Fleet or a cheaper Land Based Silo based option for a converted Trident Missile System, as a second strike Deterrent.

  • Sue Doughty 14th Sep '15 - 3:18pm

    What is very true is that we cannot afford to support conventional armed forces and also Trident. If we choose to have armed forces we should be ensuring that as many as possible are professionals rather than reserves. Our armed forces these days have a strong role to play in peace keeping in particular. Other countries are not signed up to continuous at sea defence in the way we still espouse. Threats to the UK change all the time but what we do know is that it is now rapidly changing. Would our existing nuclear defence keep us safe? I continue to think not. Do we even understand which countries pose the sort of threat that having a nuclear deterrent would protect us against? Certainly not. Trident is in the end irrelevant.

  • Dear Tim “As Conference argued a couple of years ago, we do not need a continuous armed nuclear patrol and we should not be asked to foot the bill for it.”

    What evidence did Conference hear?

    The problems with not having continuous at-sea deterrent are as follows:

    – four boats is the minimum to ensure CASD; one on station, one travelling, one for training and one in refit. Any fewer and you run the risk of having no boat available when required
    – having no CASD boat out there means that any departure of a boat is potentially an aggressive signal that could exacerbate any international tension

    A CASD 4-Boat deterrent is a £2-3bn p.a. insurance policy. Given the £40bn (?) we’re currently spending on debt interest and the £200bn. on Social Security it seems like very good value, and as others have argued, allows us to deploy our conventional forces overseas to support other operations.

    So – either we have 4-boat CASD or we spend the money on something else; half-measures are a waste of money and potential more dangerous, and let’s not pretend we’re going to have anything much to show for the money we “save” by not spending it on Trident.

  • Steve Davenport 14th Sep '15 - 3:42pm

    Tim, I’m relieved to read you acknowledging that in the current international climate security considerations must be paramount. Most notably this includes recent Russian expansion in the Crimea and ongoing aggression in Ukraine. At a time when Vladimir Putin is deploying increased numbers of ICBMs any serious discussion of unilateral disarmament by not replacing Trident in some form appears irresponsible (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/vladimir-putin-announces-russia-will-add-40-new-ballistic-missiles-to-nuclear-arsenal-in-2015-10323304.html) .

    We should also not expect our NATO allies, most notably the United States, to exclusively bear the cost of maintaining an effective global nuclear deterrent.

    Like most in the Liberal Democrat party I welcome the day when the world is free of nuclear weapons but I’m yet to hear a convincing case for moving from a multilateral to a unilateral disarmament policy. The timing could not be worse to advocate such a profound change.

  • Robert Adamson 14th Sep '15 - 3:54pm

    I have a dilemma (or several):
    1. A nuclear deterrent against whom? Who has the capability of launching nuclear weapons against us through missiles et al? Russia? China? Who has the potential “will” to launch against us? Many countries, but they don’t have the weapons and/or delivery systems.
    2. A nuclear deterrent against another form of attack? Where do we address the missiles if a few people empty bottles of biological weapons into our reservoirs? Where if a suitcase nuclear weapon is used in one of our cities?
    3. Is the concept of “submarine based nuclear deterrence” actually 1960’s thinking? As out-of-date as cavalry charges in WW1?
    4. I don’t want nuclear weapons but then again I’m not to keen on a crossbow or sword pointed at me but practically it would seem more efficient to use a more versatile delivery system than air submarine, anyhow.

    I don’t think this motion is very good so let’s commission a real “Defence Policy” paper looking at ALL aspects of the issue

  • Robert Adamson 14th Sep '15 - 3:57pm

    “Air submarine”? Definitely not practical! Try “a submarine” instead

  • Dave Orbison 14th Sep '15 - 4:14pm

    Ah yes the old tricks are the best? Have a clear policy? No thanks just look at the stick Corbyn is getting? No lets kick into the long grass and fudge. That way we can be all things to all people. I see the multilateralist a applaud the proposal. That’s telling. And what could be better than a personal plea from the Leader to vote for a non definitive amendment. It’s you duty to back him of course. And so we see the contrast between Farron and Corbyn. One a radical who is prepared to stand up what he believes in the other ‘the typical professional politician, let’s no get nailed down on anything’. Good luck. So sad to see the LibDem Party reduced to a whimper.

  • Tony Dawson 14th Sep '15 - 4:15pm

    @Nick Thornsby:

    ” Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal after the Budapest Memorandum in 1994.”

    (And look how well that worked out for them!)”

    So, Nick, you would be happy with two conflicting sets of thuggish warlord-led gangs in Ukraine each ending up with a share of Ukraine’s significant pre-1994 nuclear missile stock. Likely to be a really great contribution to world peace, that would be. 🙁

  • Richard Underhill 14th Sep '15 - 4:23pm

    Does the UK think that it a proxy war is possible in Syria? If the reported presence of Russian combat troops on the ground is correct there is the possiblity of collateral damage from drone attacks and unpredictable diplomatic consequences. Deterrence eventually relies on wisdom, effective political control and sound judgement all round, but suppose those conditions are not present?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 14th Sep '15 - 4:24pm

    It might be worth people re-reading the whole post again if you read it before 4pm. Somehow the technology ate a bit of it somewhere and that bit has now been added in.

  • @Robert Adamson “1. A nuclear deterrent against whom? Who has the capability of launching nuclear weapons against us through missiles et al? Russia? China? Who has the potential “will” to launch against us? Many countries, but they don’t have the weapons and/or delivery systems.”

    The lifetime of Trident’s replacement is 30-40 years. Think back 30-40 years from now and realise how completely different (and unpredicatable) the world will be in that timescale.

    “2. A nuclear deterrent against another form of attack? Where do we address the missiles if a few people empty bottles of biological weapons into our reservoirs? Where if a suitcase nuclear weapon is used in one of our cities?”

    Nuclear Weapons are part of a security portfolio; they are to deter the holding to ransom of the UK by a nuclear-equipped state. The other threats require different defences.

    “3. Is the concept of “submarine based nuclear deterrence” actually 1960’s thinking? As out-of-date as cavalry charges in WW1?”

    The point of a nuclear deterrent is that it’s always there and it can’t be disabled by a first strike. Land-based and aircraft-based systems are vulnerable to a first strike. Having a submarine always at sea and on station somewhere undectable is the only way to achieve this posture.

    ” 4. I don’t want nuclear weapons but then again I’m not to keen on a crossbow or sword pointed at me but practically it would seem more efficient to use a more versatile delivery system than air submarine, anyhow.”

    This statement doesn’t make any sense. Do you understand how ballistic missiles work?

  • Richard Underhill 14th Sep '15 - 4:43pm

    Tim Farron MP | Mon 14th September 2015 – 1:50 pm, Caron Lindsay 14th Sep ’15 – 4:24pm
    ” 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. “

  • Chris Johnson 14th Sep '15 - 4:45pm

    Multilateralism is such a pie in the sky notion because there are so many vested interests in the world that will do anything to keep nuclear weapons up and running. There are so many nuclear weapons in the world that financially, economically and politically the fact that we have some means nothing. As an earlier poster said, if other European countries can do without nuclear weapons who are closer to Russia why can’t we? It smacks of misguided arrogance that even now some are still harking back to the days of Empire and that our actions still have an influence in the world. We don’t need nuclear offensive weapons and have much greater priorities to consider

  • @ Tim Farron

    “But the question then is what next, and I’m not sure that the motion tabled at conference really gives us any answers”.

    It might be helpful to read the motion to be debated at conference. It gives very clear answers. It not only says that there should be no successor to Trident, it says the existing Trident system should be scrapped and that the United Kingdom should not possess nuclear weapons.

    You might not like those answers. Indeed my constituency association does not like those answers and has submitted an amendment which provides different answers but the statement that the motion does not provide answers has a truth value of false and the movers of the motion should not be smeared in this way.

  • David Evershed 14th Sep '15 - 4:52pm

    It is never an argument to say we can’t afford to defend ourselves against aggressors.

    There is no point spending £50bn on HS2 if we then can’t deter other nucleat countries from attacking us.

  • David Grace 14th Sep '15 - 4:55pm

    Deeply disappointing. If you think that nuclear deterrence is necessary and works, then Trident is a bloody marvellous system. If you think we have real and current defence needs, spend the money more wisely. The party has looked at Trident 5 times in 8 years. We do NOT need another working group. There are no new facts to be learned. This amendment would just make us look wishy-washy and indecisive, which we have been ! Time to decide.

  • Paul Hudson 14th Sep '15 - 4:58pm

    Why can’t we as Lib Dems just admit to ourselves that this is essentially a conscience vote? As is so often the Lib Dem way, we carry an extraordinarily varied set of often entirely opposing and contradictory views on complex moral issues such as this. A quick scan up and down this comments section utterly confirms this. And Tim, if I might be so bold, your position here smacks of trying too hard to be all things to all members.

    Sometimes we need to be honest about our inherent eclecticism and the pragmatism that must therefore ensue. We must learn to lead easily in areas we’re clear, be pragmatic and reasoned in areas we’re not so clear and when situations and consciences dictate, be honest enough to be individuals. This, at least to me, is surely the very essence of Liberal Democracy.

    FWIW, for me to be clear; I think we’re wrong to not decisively committing to a like-for-like renewal… dangerous world, ultimate hard-power comfortably juxtaposed with UK’s extensive soft-power, multilateral influence, failsafe effectiveness of deterrent, cost-effective insurance policy, etc. etc.

  • @Chris Johnson “It smacks of misguided arrogance that even now some are still harking back to the days of Empire and that our actions still have an influence in the world. ”

    So, rather than a parliamentary democracy with a free press that operates under the rule of law being engaged in dealing with the world’s security problems, who would you rather it was?

  • Geoffrey payne 14th Sep '15 - 5:25pm

    How much money do you propose to spend on replacing Trident?

  • John Tilley 14th Sep '15 - 5:35pm

    I think all genuine Liberal Democrats can unite behind our leader and support him when he says —

    “…I am absolutely clear that Lib Dems will vote against renewal of the current Trident programme if it comes before the House of Commons.
    What’s more, we’ll work to push for this vote to happen because there is absolutely no reason why the Tory government should be allowed to wave through a decision on such an important issue.
    We should say loud and clear that Lib Dems don’t support like-for-like replacement of Trident and I will happily lead the charge.”

  • John Barrett 14th Sep '15 - 5:41pm

    There are, and have always been, a range of views on this subject within the party.

    We now need a clear policy on this, and many other issues, as the public needs an answer to the question, “What do Liberal Democrats stand for?”

    At a time when clear decisive leadership is also what we need, if the best Tim can come up with is to say that “Judith Jolly has submitted a very sensible amendment which asks for the motion to be referred back to the Federal policy Committee”, we will deserve to be ignored by the media.

    This is the single issue on the conference agenda that would make me want to attend conference this year, but as pressure will no doubt be on everyone not to undermine a new leader by supporting the motion, I will stay away.

    We have been here before – when Ming intervened in the Harrogate debate under similar circumstances.

    I hope history does not repeat itself.

  • Mick Taylor 14th Sep '15 - 5:45pm

    What free press? It’s owned by Murdoch, the Barclays, Desmond and some Russian oligarch. If we stick to Liberal principles and vote to scrap Trident they will attack us, just as they are now going for Corbyn. Surely that’s no reason to back off??!!!

  • I am probably the only person on here that thinks that we should have more nukes. One missile on the east coat of England, one in Cornwall somewhere, and one on the west coast of Northern Ireland, plus trident as it is. The reason why I think we need more nukes is to reduce our reliability on the us.

  • The Lib Dems seem like a divide party, straight down the middle. They’re not “moderate radicals” they’re just divided and have nothing consistent to offer the electorate other than not being someone else. Loyalty to the party is what seems to be stopping them seeing this.

    The no like for like replacement a trident seems to me like just another example of a half way house type fudge.

  • Jim Forrest 14th Sep '15 - 6:28pm

    I was delighted two years ago to be able to vote for a motion, presented by a Lib Dem Cabinet minister, which could have led to the first step in a planned reduction of Britain’s nuclear arsenal. A pity there seems to have been no one with the expertise to build on that and develop policy setting out further steps to achieve that reduction while ensuring realistic defence of British interests in partnership with our allies. Tim is right to point out that this year’s motion verges on the simplistic, but a reference back, if that’s all it is (I can’t find text of the amendment in the Agenda), is just a copout. At the very least, an amendment should give the party’s backing to to Tim’s pledge of a vote against like for like replacement.

  • Patrick C Smith 14th Sep '15 - 6:41pm

    I am led by the informed views of now Lord Ming Campbell on the motion whether to scale down UK Trident Missile possession and deployment, as he was chief L/D report writer on policy.As I understand it Ming recommended exactly what our Leader Tim Farron MP is proposing that the cost be reduced from 4 to 3 permanent deployed submariner sea patrolled Trident missiles.

    1 agree with those whom support the advocacy of Trident deployment at lower annual and long term cost to our beleaguered Exchequer.

    But equally it should be realised that there are future known global terrorist threats and currently the illegal invasion of Ukraine without consent by Russia and the darker spectral possibility of any unknown potential terror State armer with nuclear war heads emerging in an uncertain world to pose a major threat to the UK and World Peace and family stability.

    I do not subscribe to the quaker held view -how ever much respect this position deserves as being principled and ethical thinking- but unilateralism is not an option in a threatened world containing potential `Rogue states’.

  • Richard Church 14th Sep '15 - 6:46pm

    The key issue of our time is dealing with civil wars, failed states and ideological extremism which coupled with climate change will lead to the massive displacement of people around the globe. Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent, whatever form it takes, is irrelevant to that and simply detracts funding from the highly skilled force needed for such purposes.

  • I support Tim’s viewpoint. We cannot be bounced into a major policy position about the defence of our country, from a policy motion. The world is dangerous and abandoning Trident at a time that Putin is flexing his muscles. I certainly support multilateralism, but we need far more information in order to arrive at a responsible decision.

  • (Should have logged in with my party member logo, for my last comment. Apologies)

  • George Lund 14th Sep '15 - 6:53pm

    Politically I could never support a policy that allowed for use of nuclear weapons, in any circumstances.

    I’ll accept that’s simplistic view, but for me there few moral questions that have quite such a clear-cut answer!

    Given that absolute position, it’s hard to see why the money should be spent. And there can only be pressure for disarmament if parties like ours stand up and be counted.

    The fudge position is truly ridiculous. Better the ire of the press than mockery. I’d rather we had CASD than a fudge.

  • I know Tim and have supported him with enthusiasm as a breath of post Coalition fresh air……. but I’m sorry and very disappointed that he feels compelled to do a balancing act on this. I understand why…1) presumably to keep certain Party grandees on side (though some have not been particularly supportive of him) and …, 2) he will have constituents in Furness with connections in the Barrow shipyard.

    John Barrett, the former MP for Edinburgh West, is correct. We need a clear policy and clear leadership on this. Apart from morality the commissioning cost of £26 billion could be better spent ( £ 100 billion over the lifetime). This fudge will haunt Tim every time he is interviewed and confirm the ‘wishy-washy’ characterisation of the Lib Dems in the Tory Press (correctly described by @ Mick Taylor above).

    To those anxious about Putin – why is Germany content to live (nearer Moscow) without an independent deterrent ? As to @ Dylan – thanks for telling Putin where our nukes are going to be located….. you’ll be willing to pay more than £ 26 billion to provide a readily identified target to the Russian muscle man if he gets indigestion.. And if Donald Trump get s elected – watch out Aberdeenshire.

  • @ TCO “a parliamentary democracy with a free press”

    Is that the one where a majority government gets 37% of the votes cast (24% of the electorate) and where yesterday’s politicians can leverage peerages for donors ? And is that the free press (and TV media) 80% owned by the offshore Murdoch,Rothermeres, Barclays and Desmond,…. and where chummy Whittingdale is trying to erode the BBC to death by a thousand cuts to the benefit of said offshore moguls ?

  • Patrick Skradde 14th Sep '15 - 8:15pm

    With respect, other nuclear powers operate on different ethical principles and doing away with Trident isn’t going to have the desired effect. Expensive it may be, but we’re just going to have to grit our teeth and pay up.
    Like-for-like is fair enough whilst standing strong on curtailing further proliferation.
    An increased reliance on the US in the absence of Trident is undesirable.
    The money spent on replacement won’t all be lost – it’ll go some way to generating jobs and benefiting the local economy.

  • Neil Sandison 14th Sep '15 - 8:23pm

    Please read the Centre Forum recommendations and don’t knee jerk .Any policy we are putting before the electorate must be coherent ,deliverable and practical .You may not agree to all its content but it does offer a realistic alternative to Trident ,a de-escalation in the nuclear arms race and intelligent thinking on multilateral nuclear disarmament and verification .Give Tim the chance come forward with sensible options .We already have the assurance that the Liberal Democrat MPs will not vote for like for like replacement .

  • Dave Orbison 14th Sep '15 - 9:08pm

    I predict in five years time ….. no decision has to be be remitted to the ‘long grass committee’ again or the Federal “what’s it called”. Democratic? If so why does the Leader need to tell you the way he wants you to vote as opposed to him listening to members and reflecting their wishes? LibDems – radical – once maybe, but no more. Timid Tim –

  • Drew Durning 14th Sep '15 - 9:26pm

    A good debate – hopefully a sign of what is to come at conference. I would like our policy to be based on a “minimal” deterrent. What is the minimum amount that can be spent to ensure a credible threat of retaliation in the event of attack? It seems relevant that the word “overkill” was created to describe systems such as the 4 Vanguards with a minimum of 40 warheads per sub. On that basis, I will be supporting the amendment.

  • I don’t personally accept that Trident is a deterrent as I’m yet to hear a single plausible scenario where we would be allowed to launch our nuclear weapons without the express consent of the Americans, or where Nato members might be subjected to nuclear attack and the US would not retaliate. From a potential enemies strategic view point then it is our alliance with the US which is the deterrent, which is equally valid for Germany and Italy.

    That said the proposed amendment can only be a positive thing if it allows us to properly think through our response to the questions about how we would handle disarmament and the alternatives we would advocate.

  • Simon Foster 14th Sep '15 - 10:09pm

    I believe we ought to get rid of Trident and our nuclear weapons.

    No doubt some people will say that we’ve never dropped any nuclear weapons on anyone. In Australia in the 1950s the UK Government was testing nuclear weapons on unpopulated areas. Except the UK and Australian Governments never bothered to check that they’d contacted and found all of the aboriginal people living in the area….

    Cock ups happen like the one above, and the effect of nuclear weapons is long lasting. You still can’t drive from Adelaide up to Alice Spring in Australia without shutting the windows for part of the journey, because of the nuclear tests we carried out some 60+ years ago. I know, I’ve done the journey.

    We should be aware of the shameful history our country had in developing these weapons, and get rid of them. End of.

  • “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. ”

    Was this not done when the 2013 conference debated the defence policy paper?

  • @John Tilley “I think all genuine Liberal Democrats can unite behind our leader and support him when he says —

    “…I am absolutely clear that Lib Dems will vote against renewal of Trident …
    We should say loud and clear that Lib Dems don’t support like-for-like replacement of Trident and I will happily lead the charge.””

    You think incorrectly.

  • @Dylan “one on the west coast of Northern Ireland,”

    Northern Ireland doesn’t have a West Coast.

  • I feel that there are wider issues at stake. We have a seat on the United Nations Security Council and successive Prime Ministers seem capable of taking forward the “Special Relationship” with the US. This has been important over the years. US Presidents have listened to UK Prime Ministers.I feel that the existence of an independent deterrent has justified that relationship from the US viewpoint as has our membership of the EU. The latter could be at risk owing to the referendum. If Britain did not have a deterrent and was no longer in the EU what motive would a future US President have to continue that relationship? It could be vital if Donald Trump were to find his way to the White House.

    I am however persuaded that the cost of a straight replacement of Trident is simply no longer affordable. However I believe in an insurance policy so feel that we should have some sort of sea based deterrent against any potential nuclear terrorist plot. Whether this is achieved by a reduced but independent capability or some kind of lease or sharing deal perhaps with other European NATO Countries or with the US is another question. That requires input from the strategists. If we can come up with a solution that saves money, I do feel that the savings should go to our conventional forces .

    This puts me on the multilateral side of the debate. I acknowledge that whilst countries like North Korea have a nuclear capacity complete disarmament of all nuclear weapons will not happen, but we must strive towards it whenever the global political situation allows.

  • Nigel Quinton 15th Sep '15 - 12:54am

    Tim, sorry this is a fudge, however well meant and responsible.

    My view has been for many years that a UK independent deterrent is neither independent nor an effective deterrent.

    Whilst in an ideal world I would like to see us use the rejection of our own nuclear weapons as a spur towards multilateralism, the sad fact is that multilateralism is currently going nowhere, and if the choice is between unilateralism and nuclear proliferation (as replacement for Trident would be) , then my choice is clear. Does Germany feel more threatened as a non-nuclear power, does Sweden, does Spain? My vision of a world in which I want my children to live does not include nuclear weapons, but if they are a necessity then they should be under the umbrella of NATO and through collective defence – not independently (not that ours ever was).

  • Tim, I read with surprise, “Please do post your thoughts in the comments below and as much as I can I will try to reply to as many as I can.”
    I read the posts looking out for a comment on a comment from one of our MPs, which I can’t remember every seeing before, but I was disappointed. I couldn’t find Tim commenting on the comments, maybe he will find the time tomorrow.

    If a country fired a nuclear weapon at the UK, NATO would have to get involved and the USA has nuclear weapons. That is the point of being in an alliance. If NATO didn’t act, it would be the end of NATO. It might be why Putin annexed the Crimea before the Ukraine could join NATO. During the Cold War the whole point of NATO’s nuclear deterrent was to stop USSR’s tanks rolling across the plains of Germany, so why can’t it also protect the UK now, if we don’t have a submarine based nuclear weapons system?

    I do hope that Federal Conference Committee has reject the amendment by Judith Jolly and I didn’t think a motion could call for a reference back. I thought that a reference back was done understanding orders and means that the vote on the motion is not taken. Please can an expert on our Standing Orders could clarify the position?

  • Sorry, I wish there was an edit button. What I should have written was:
    I do hope that Federal Conference Committee has rejected the amendment by Judith Jolly as I didn’t think a motion could call for a reference back. I thought that a reference back was done under Standing Orders and means that the vote on the motion is not taken. Please can an expert on our Standing Orders clarify the position?

  • Brian Sadler 15th Sep '15 - 8:00am

    Tim, I think your position stated here is spot on, and I also like the comments expressed by George Cunningham in Lib Dem Newswire which are along the same lines. I have always been against taking isolated snap decisions instead of formulating comprehensive policies on broad topics. Nuclear disarmament could well be a detail option in a proper all round defense paper which sets out what we feel are the threats that the country will face over the next 50 years and our strategy for dealing with them. But I shall look forward to taking part in the debate at conference – a quality debate could show the LIb Dems at their best.

  • ………………………………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………………..

    Great idea, Tim…..Then we could have a ‘party working group’ to review the decision of this ‘working group’…

    “and so ad infinitum”

  • I agree with Tim’s position on this.
    My firm hope is that we will, as part of a bigger rethink on defence, scrap Trident.
    It is no defence against terrorists, insignificant in terms of the world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.
    And we could never use use it – could we, we’ve all lost if we did?

  • I see it only took three comments before someone had to bring religion into this discussion- depressing or what? I won’t be voting to abandon our nuclear weapons although like most other people I would like to see a nuclear weapons free world. These weapons have played a role in keeping relative global peace and we should be cautious before scrapping them. For instance there hasn’t been a major conflict between India and Pakistan since the pair of them became nuclear weapons states.

    For me in western Europe it’s the behaviour of Russia and its leaders that is a key point when considering defence policy.

  • John Tilley 15th Sep '15 - 9:06am

    I guess that this discussion would have included a different set of comments if the headline had been —

    Tim Farron says — “…Lib Dems will vote against the renewal of Trident”

    As everyone knows, I am always keen to give vocal support to the popular leader of The Liberal Democrats who was elected very recently with a very convincing majority in a one member, one vote election.
    What proper Liberal Democrat would deny a leader with such a convincing majority the chance to lead?

  • The Lib-Dems need to do some joined-up thinking on this issue. We live in very uncertain world with a resurgent nationalistic Russia dominating international relations and the proliferation of nuclear weapons to unstable pariah states, as well as potentially to non-state terrorist actors. This is not the time to unilaterally remove a central plank of British defence policy – as long as we want to guarantee national security it must remain. As to renewing Trident? This is indeed a expensive Rolls-Royce solution to maintaining an independent nuclear deterrent, but it is by far, far the most effective – compared to vulnerable air, surface sea and land based alternative systems – since submarines can effectively vanish into the wide expanses of the North Atlantic and avoid being destroyed themselves.

  • I agree that i is difficult to have a clear policy on this issue when there are so many members with set views. If one balances the need for nuclear arms with a determination to start the process of disarmament, the question has been for the fifty years I have been going to conference how is that achieved. The nonsense of having nuclear free areas was laughable and was roundly condemned as irrelevant by conference at the time. But this is where these debates take you, to purely vote against nuclear deterrents is futile and will not receive support in the Commons nor advance our partys credibility but the existing Lib dem position might allow us to claim a sensible position as several Senior military personnel are agreable that it is tenable.
    Vote to abolish may salve conciences and make one superiorly moralistic but it is impractical and ould further erode Britains voive at the top tables

  • Paul Reynolds 15th Sep '15 - 11:32am

    I think it is true that the Party had studied and voted on the technical and financial issues in detail over recent years, often with a moral dimension. Toby Fenwick’s Centre Forum paper was another milestone in the continuing honing and refinement of the two main ‘camps’… (reduced nuclear deterrent or scrapping the deterrent). What has not been sufficiently examined however is the set of international consequences and options for the future. Without a deterrent would we end up with nuclear cover from US global nuclear assets (asked for or not) ? Would NATO reform result in the UK receiving nuclear cover from the French system which is independent of the US. Given that the UK would not conceivably launch nuclear weapons without US approval and that the technology of Trident 2 will be two third American (and given that the US in practical terms regards the UK system as part of its global defences) should not the US pay for it ? The German government provides one of Israel’s three delivery systems for nuclear weapons. Does this provide scope for a cheaper and more effective system ? What would be the impact on UK permanent UN security Council membership of scraping Trident ? What circumstances outside of an existential threat to the UK could Trident be conceivably used ? To defend Australia or NZ and if so what scenarios might lead to an existential attack on those countries ? Indeed now NATO is operating in Afghanistan (not near the North Atlantic last time I looked), what reforms to NATO are needed ? Will there be a ‘global NATO’ and a ‘European homeland defence NATO’. All in all the context of global relationships for the UK in nuclear deterrent policy is missing from much of the discourse.. and our case for one approach or another is weakened as a consequence.

  • @John Tilley “As everyone knows, I am always keen to give vocal support to the popular leader of The Liberal Democrats who was elected very recently with a very convincing majority in a one member, one vote election.
    What proper Liberal Democrat would deny a leader with such a convincing majority the chance to lead?”

    Indeed, and let us not forget that whilst Tim Faron received an admirable 19,137 votes, Nick Clegg received 20,988 votes. I’m sure you gave him every opportunity the chance to lead.

  • peter tyzack 15th Sep '15 - 12:02pm

    ‘the Govt will decide next year’ so ‘we should defer our motion on this until next year’ is just not a runner. We have to stand our ground and let it be known where we stand, NOW.. not shilly-shally about whilst we get the details right.. This is a question of principle, we don’t need the bomb because we would never use it and it is a totally abhorrent idea that we ever could, therefore we must scrap any notions of replacement, and use our money more wisely.
    Yes that has implications and the details will have to be worked out, but we don’t need the details to know that we are wrong to hold onto yesterday’s ideas, which can only lead to MAD.

  • Peter Watson 15th Sep '15 - 12:54pm

    @TCO “Indeed, and let us not forget that whilst Tim Faron received an admirable 19,137 votes, Nick Clegg received 20,988 votes. I’m sure you gave him every opportunity the chance to lead.”
    Out of interest, did Nick Clegg give his predecessors “every opportunity the chance to lead”?

  • Hi all. Great to see so many people commenting on this – sorry I haven’t been able to respond earlier. One question that has come up a lot is – if not Trident, then what. Good question and to be completely honest, at the moment I am open to the options. I am no expert in nuclear defence but that’s why I want a group of our experts to consider all the issues – talk to other experts – and make recommendations that we can vote on as a party. I don’t want us to be in a position of making policy in the dark, and I’m concerned that that is where the current motion leaves us. Also to come back on the legitimate questions about whether this is just a rerun of our previous working group, I think what is being proposed is actually quite different. What is being suggested is a group that will look at both the current international context, which has moved on quite a lot since 2013, and also at the full implications of nuclear decommissioning. I think we need to be absolutely clear about the impact on our security and the implications of decommissioning – as well as the costs in the all too likely scenario that the Tory government have already committed us to like-for-like Trident replacement. It’s not as simple as locking the door and walking away. Finally, on the morality of nuclear weapons. I am completely clear I would never want to see the UK deploy nuclear weapons– but actually, I don’t really think that is what being a nuclear power is about. The critical thing is the power of the deterrent and I want us to understand what losing that would mean. Essentially I want us to have a genuinely considered policy which we can explain and which considers our international relations. Most fundamentally though, I want us to have a policy that we can be totally confident contributes to bringing about a nuclear free world as quickly as possible. That’s why I think it needs further thought.

  • @David Watts I am absolutely clear that we should vote against the like for like renewal of Trident. The question, as lots of people have pointed out, is then what? Once the government take the decision on renewal – and Osborne has already moved the government further down this road, what is the Lib Dem response.

  • @Richard I can truthfully say I have read the motion! The questions we need to have answers to include what the implications on our security might be, what are the costs of decommissioning, and what do we do, in the not entirely unlikely scenario that the Tories go ahead anyway. Once costs have been committed, are we going to end up spending even more decommissioning. If that’s the plan, I want us to be absolutely sure that it is the right one.

  • @Rolo Thanks for that. Our current position agreed in 2013 is to oppose like for like replacement, end CASD, issue a declaratory policy of going to sea only with unarmed missiles and reduce our stockpile of warheads. If we are going to change this policy I want to have very clear and just as detailed answers on what next, that’s why we need to look at the issue in the round.

  • @David Raw Sorry to hear that you’re not with me on this. I don’t want this to be a fudge – I want to see considered policy that we all have confidence in. If people want to characterise me as whishy-washy so be it, but I think the bigger danger is that we look like a party who make policy without thinking through the consequences.

  • @John Marriott It’s true that we are sadly a diminished parliamentary force at the moment but I am absolutely clear we are going to stand up for what we believe in and make our position known.

  • Neil Sandison 15th Sep '15 - 1:43pm

    Peter Tyzack I wish we were only deciding on something simple like a bomb or the bomb ,unfortunately we are talking about multiple weapon delivery systems some on our shores some on submarines with a similar arsenal pointed directly at us. Scrapping Trident is only part of the debate and does not assure our security .That can only be achieved by reducing international tensions and a de-escalation of the nuclear arms race.Today North Korea upped the anti by restarting its nuclear programme .proliferation does need to be tackled as it was in Iran .British and European soft power was a significant contribution in those talks.

  • Very impressed that Tim Farron has engaged on here. I asked for exactly this a while ago and was told by Paul Walter that Tim would have no time to run the Party if he engaged with “the usual suspects” on here. Good for Tim.

  • Neil Sandison 15th Sep '15 - 1:59pm

    Tim Farron Good to see a leader really engaged with his members . Can you ensure a viable policy document will come back to next years conference be it green or white so that conference the parliament of the party can make an informed decision.

  • Agree completely with Paul Reynolds – these are the things that a credible policy must answer if it is to stand up to public scrutiny. I want to become a unilateralist, but the argument has to include answers to Pauls points

  • So here’s the thing. Everyone knows where the SNP stands on this issue. Everyone knows where the Tories stand. People might not be clear about Labour but they can probably hazard a guess. We stand no chance of leading any charge unless we are clearly defined. Referring back doesn’t make the public think we are wise. It makes the public think we are either clueless, or indecisive – woolly even. The question then is, can we support this motion while still going on to develop policy around this for future conferences. And I think we can. In fact we must if we want to do the right thing. It is worth bearing in mind the huge number of signatories for this motion. This is not something from a last minute party exec, or group of ten colleagues. Tim, I have read your piece. There is nothing wrong with having well worked out policy documents which cross every t, dot every I and anticipate most eventualties. But doing that does not stop us taking a position on Trident. Significant decisions are made by those who are bold enough to declare where they stand. And we need to take a stand.

  • John Tilley 15th Sep '15 - 3:35pm

    I echo the comment from Phyllis. Well done Tim!

    We now have the leaders of at least five parties in the House of Commons who will lead their parties to vote against replacement of Trident.

    Cooperation between Liberal Democrats, Labour, SNP, PC and Greens on voting against spending £ Billions on replacing Trident might even flush out some Michael Portillo type Tories who think it would be a ridiculous waste of money.

    It is worth remembering that Portillo, a Conservative former Secretary of state for Defence, has said —
    “Our independent nuclear deterrent is not independent
    And does not constitute a deterrent against anybody that we regard as an enemy.
    It is a waste of money and it is a diversion of funds….
    But some people have not caught up with this reality.”

  • @ Tim Farron

    “…on the morality of nuclear weapons. I am completely clear I would never want to see the UK deploy nuclear weapons– but actually, I don’t really think that is what being a nuclear power is about. The critical thing is the power of the deterrent …”

    I don’t understand this. If our Liberal Democrat Prime Minister of the future is committed never to deploy nuclear weapons what is the deterrent effect of his possessing them ?

  • @Richard I think there is a confusion between deploy in the sense of have available and deploy in the sense of use.

  • @Tim Farron “Our current position agreed in 2013 is to oppose like for like replacement, end CASD, issue a declaratory policy of going to sea only with unarmed missiles and reduce our stockpile of warheads.”

    Perhaps someone can explain the rationale behind this posture, which seems to me to offer the worst of all worlds. It’s not CASD, yet retains most of the expense of CASD. Not having armed missiles means any arming would send an escalatory signal, and it relies on the ability of intelligence sources to accurately predict an increasing threat – something that is by no means guaranteed.

  • Mick Taylor 15th Sep '15 - 5:23pm

    Tim

    The resolution is not at all vague. What the resolution says in clear terms is that we will not renew, we will not spend the money on buying a new generation of weapons of mass destructions and we will scrap the existing Trident system. If that happened we would not have a nuclear bomb, like most of the countries in the world. We would rely on conventional forces to defend the UK if necessary. The only thing the resolution doesn’t talk about is the possibility of spending more on conventional forces. Quite honestly that can be dealt with later. The debate about the bomb is NOW, not at some date in the future when any commission that might be set up gets round to reporting.

  • Ronald Adamson 15th Sep '15 - 5:30pm

    I`ll listen to the the debate,but my initial thoughts are 1trident isn`t effective,with the number of hunter killer subs against.2 what other options are there eg Drones armed with nuclear weapons?3I thought we were short of money.What about,biological,hacking and other threats.4.Germany uses Nato as a cost effective option.How many other countries get by without nuclear submarines.5.most other threats,Isis,Terrorist Bombs are not stopped by one submarine.Why delay decision why not follow mo0st European countries who don`t have a nuclear armed submarine.

  • Thank you Tim for posting and commenting on the comments. I hope you will always do this when you have an article published here and will find the time to engage with more individuals as you continue to engage with those who post comments here. Also I hope you will encourage our MPs and Spokespersons to also engage with the comments to any articles they write that are published here.

    I think you made a better case in your comments for having a detailed policy to deal with what our policy should be once the Conservatives have allocated and spent some of the money to provide a Trident replacement.

  • @ Tim Farron

    Thanks for responding Tim. Good and very refreshing to know that you take the trouble to do so (but not at all surprised, knowing you). Just to confirm – You know you have my personal loyalty and I do understand your position – but on this issue for me I’m afraid this is a matter of principle.

  • Alun Williams 15th Sep '15 - 9:34pm

    Dear Tim and all,

    please bear in mind that a submarine based nuclear deterrent is the most effective one. None of the alternatives (cruise missile, air-to-ground missile, land based ballistic missiles) are as effective militarily, i.e. they are more vulnerable to being intercepted and are therefore not really an effective deterrent.

    Anything which is not a ballistic missile can be intercepted more easily, and a land based based ballistic missile deterrent can be neutralised in a first strike. That is the point of the submarines – they are very very hard to find AND their ballistic missiles are highly likely to hit their target.

    The question is, if not a like for like replacement, which of the above, and how would their weaknesses be overcome?

    I should mention, however, that if Scotland became independent and denied use of its ports and waters, we would struggle to operate the submarine deterrent effectively – my understanding is that it would be easier for prospective foes to track the movements of our submarines anywhere in the UK apart from Scotland.

    Effectiveness apart, this isn’t really an independent deterrent is it if we are so reliant on the United States for technology and skills necessary for upkeep.

    Could there be, heavens forbid, an agreement with France – perhaps a shared deterrent? A strike on either country would affect the other, and therefore the two countries are natural partners for a deterrent.

    Just a few thoughts for you to mull over Tim!

  • Clive Jones 15th Sep '15 - 9:49pm

    I will be supporting Tim’s position at conference. I don’t like nuclear weapons, But they are a necessary deterrent . They have helped keep the peace in Europe since 1945. If we hadn’t had them would some of the Soviet Leaders before Gorbachev have decided to risk invading western Europe. I think they would. We could now be living in a Soviet state.

    We also have to consider the capability of other states who have recently developed Nuclear weapons. They will think more than twice when they realise we could use ours in retaliation to them using theirs against us.

  • @Alun Williams …. interesting post Alun but a few problems….,

    1. ” it would be easier for prospective foes to track the movements of our submarines anywhere in the UK apart from Scotland”. “Submarines are hard to find”
    Do you think people don’t know where Trident is in Scotland ? You can go on countless ‘Lochs and Glen’ tourist coaches past it…… more to the point do you think the Russians (as an example) don’t have tracking systems following the subs in and out of Faslane ? ‘ Course they do….. what do you think the Russian trawlers are doing in Ullapool now that Flora Macdonald is long gone ?

    2. “Could there be, heavens forbid, an agreement with France – perhaps a shared deterrent? A strike on either country would affect the other, and therefore the two countries are natural partners for a deterrent.”

    Oh dear – please not a re-run of the Anglo-French Naval Agreement of 1912 (not one of Winston’s finest achievements) which was an entanglement towards our involvement in World War One. Sprung on the House by Sir Edward Grey hours before the declaration in August, 1914.

    Not only that……………….. beware Simon Shaw. He won’t like it because he thinks Hollande is a Gallic version of Corbyn Zut alors !!

    Fact is Trident is an expensive totem pole which sensible people like the Germans nowadays do without (they’re even nearer geographically to Putin than we are.) You might remember the Lancasters bombed the V2’s at Peenemunde in 1943.

  • Alun Williams 16th Sep '15 - 12:20am

    @ David Raw

    Submarines are at their most vulnerable/detectable when entering/leaving port. Once they are in the sea (as one always is) they are undetectable.

    France – can’t really see why we can’t cooperate.

    And I think jedibeeftrix makes a good point in that all other European countries can afford not to have a deterrent because they are necessarily protected by those of the UK, Fr and USA.

  • @ Jed and Alun. So if Germany etc are happy to shelter under our Trident shouldn’t a financial contribution be appropriate?

  • Alun Williams 16th Sep '15 - 9:25pm

    ‘@ David Raw

    Yes, I’d say so, and not just Germany.

  • Commenting as a LD member but not got the flashy flag:

    Really, really good stuff to Tim for policy outreach on this website. I’m a big believer in internet politics being a massive part of the future of campaigns, party workings, and direct voter engagement.

    On Trident, if there was a serious prospect of defeating the government on this, I’d hammer our policy in as anti-nuclear.

    However, the government is going to end up waving this through and we’re going to be stuck with the bloomin’ things for the next twenty years or so.

    I personally believe – and I’m an International Politics grad so at least I have an academic background in nukes – that our deterrent is a dead duck and the best thing we could do is scrap it ASAP, to encourage debate and conversation in the USA, France and Israel about deterrence. Investing in an ultra-modern military is more important – I’d rather us be able to face the security problems of the 21st century rather than the Cold War.

    If we’re stuck with the replacement, then our policy should be “the UK will campaign as hard as possible for a post-nuke world ASAP, and we’ll keep the current deterrence because we already paid for the albatross so we might was well stuff it.” I wouldn’t be surprised if Corbynite Labour’s policy ends up boiling down to this too.

  • Neil Sandison 17th Sep '15 - 9:40am

    Huw Davidson see the Rugby amendment which covers that eventuality but still leaves us with a policy to pursue the type of international agreement you have suggested and goes further calling for an international ban on nuclear weapons putting them in the same league as chemical ,biological warfare and land mines that kill indiscriminately.

  • Neil Sandison 17th Sep '15 - 9:42am

    Huw Dawson Sorry about the name error trying to write and move screen doesn’t always work.

  • Toby Fenwick 17th Sep '15 - 1:50pm

    Sorry for the delay in responding to this – I’m on a course with limited spare time.

    Some people in the comments have kindly mentioned my CentreForum paper – it’s here, if you’re interested: http://www.centreforum.org/index.php/mainpublications/719-retiring-trident. The key to it is that Trident is a level of deterrence capacity we no longer need, but contributing to collective NATO capabilities and leveraging investment in our conventional forces provides us with a cheaper, less capable, and ultimately easier to bargain away system in the 2020s/30s. The savings would then be invested in the conventional forces.

    However, since it was published this spring, as Tim has said, the world has moved on: the Tories will hold (and win) a Main Gate vote next year, so whatever our policy is for 2020, it needs to reflect that we will inherit at least two partially complete SSBNs and we need a plan to deal with that. Personally, I’d convert them to fire conventionally armed cruise missiles for power projection, permanently removing their Trident capability.

    On the proximate issue, the motion doesn’t address any of these issues. Judith Jolly’s amendment is a sensible way forward to ensure that we have a considered policy that will take us beyond 2020.

    I urge all voting reps to vote for the Jolly amendment and then for the amended motion.

  • Jonathan Pile 17th Sep '15 - 4:45pm

    I think that Liberal Democrats ought to be multilateralist and also support some minimum deterrent which is affordable. The bulk of the £25bn cost is SSBN – Ballistic Missile submarine s , four of them costing £5bn each. We should look at refitting the astute class of SSNs to carry Trident II or a land based silo option operated by the RAF. The key thing is that sea based retaliation is an important deterrent to any surprise attacker and the cornerstone of the peace we have enjoyed. Without nuclear weapons we would be now on world war four or five by now. Sad but true. Cooperation with the French on cost sharing/ development a good idea, and perhaps a European NATO role. We will face a vote and Labour will split on this, Lib Dems must take a balanced moderate mulitlateralist view.

  • David Murray 18th Sep '15 - 7:19pm

    I recently wrote to my (very Conservative) MP to ask him the following:
    I would be grateful if you could explain to me the deterrent value of Trident in preventing:
    * Instability in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a result of our involvement in the wars on the ground
    * Chaos in Libya, as a result of our involvement in the overthrow of Col Gadaffi
    * Continuing civil war in Syria, with the threat of our further involvement in the air war there
    * Problems in the Sudan, Eritrea, Egypt, Nigeria, and elsewhere in Africa
    * RAS Putin from annexing Crimea and promoting civil unrest in Eastern Ukraine
    * The Palestinian people in Gaza and elsewhere from suffering a humanitarian crisis
    * The massive displacement of refugees from all these countries seeking refuge in Europe.
    Please consider how the cost of Trident replacement could help International Development.
    How can we expect other countries to phase out nuclear weapons if we insist on clinging on to our own.
    Is it not time we accepted the futility of continuing with nuclear submarines after their sell-by date?

    I have not yet had a reply, but if we decided not to replace Trident, we would have 10 years to negotiate a meaningful reduction in nuclear capability, before the existing lifetime of the current submarines expired. Not only that, but it would set an example to others countries that we were NOT going to say to them “Do as I say, but not as I do”!

  • Jonathan Brown 19th Sep '15 - 2:46am

    I am strongly opposed to renewing Trident and very glad to hear that Lib Dems will vote against it, but I am not in favour of complete unilateral disarmament at this time. That I am expecting to vote for the motion is a sign of just how bad I think both renewing Trident is and our current ‘3 sub fudge’ policy is.

    If I could be sure that supporting the Jolly amendment did NOT endorse our existing 3 sub policy, I would happily vote for it. I am requesting therefore a separate vote on the first line of the amendment which refers to our 2013 policy: “In line with our existing policy as set out in policy paper 112 Defending the Future – UK Defence in the 21st century (2013) and our recent General Election Manifesto,”

    Removing this line from the amendment would enable us to very clearly vote against renewing Trident while making clear that we would look seriously at alternatives and the context of the next few years (post maingate).

  • Toby Fenwick 19th Sep '15 - 8:43am

    Jonathan, an excellent move to provide welcome clarity. The amended amendment should then pass.

  • David Murray 19th Sep '15 - 5:06pm

    An alternative would be to delete the second half of the final sentence in the original motion (on lines 8 & 9) which would allow a longer period of time (up to 10 years) to negotiate a more successful multilateralist approach to nuclear disarmament.

  • David Murray 21st Sep '15 - 9:56pm

    During the Leadership contest, I asked the candidates for their view on Trident. Tim replied (Norman didn’t) “Thank you very much for your email of 5th July asking for my views on Trident. Briefly put, I don’t think we need it, I don’t think we’d ever use it, and I think the money would be much better spent buying the equipment our armed forces are desperately in need of for the job they’re currently doing.” It was a shame that the reference back won today, as any working party will not report until after the Tories have taken the decision to replace Trident next year. Meanwhile we fudge the issue and sit on our hands while the ridiculous ‘3-subs policy’ is reconsidered as a serious solution!

  • Richard Underhill 14th Dec '15 - 7:27pm

    Please see page one of the Financial Times of 14/12/2015. The current government is considering nationalising part of Rolls-Royce because of its key role in defence production.
    Yes really.
    Former MP Tony Benn used to go round saying that the Tory government had nationalised Rolls-Royce, which left Michael Heseltine admitting that it was true.
    This has nothing to do with cars. RollsRoyce Motors was sold to the Volkswagen Audi group and makes Bentleys at the factory in Crewe. The Rolls-Royce brand name was sold to BMW, who built an entirely new factory to build newly designed cars.

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