Towards a world free of nuclear weapons

At Spring Conference in York, Liberal Democrats will debate a new policy paper, Towards a World Free of Nuclear Weapons. 

This is an important debate for Liberal Democrats, because we understand all too well the catastrophic consequences of detonating nuclear weapons. The ethical questions they raise go to the heart of our party’s values: we believe that any nuclear war is morally unacceptable and must never be fought. We appreciate that as a founding signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation on Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the UK has a legal responsibility to reinvigorate international nuclear disarmament initiatives. And we have always recognised the Government’s duty to protect the British people from attack and to play a full part in protecting the UK’s NATO allies.

We are reviewing our nuclear weapons policies because the international security situation has changed, and not for the better, since 2013 when they were last updated. With Russia’s growing military adventurism, increased instability in the Middle East and a changing balance of power in Asia, the world is a more dangerous place than it has been for many years. In this challenging environment, strengthening NATO solidarity, military capability, and coherence should be the highest priority for the UK’s defence policy, especially if we leave the EU. The policy paper concludes that this is not the right time to renounce our nuclear weapons. The UK should maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent. 

We also contend that, given the current international security situation, the nuclear weapons states must get back to the negotiating table and make progress on disarmament measures and strengthening the framework for the long-term elimination of nuclear weapons. Progress has slowed in recent years. Still, the UK’s continued role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and as a recognised nuclear weapon state under the NPT present an opportunity for this country to reinvigorate international diplomacy to achieve nuclear disarmament.

The UK can seek to regain momentum in the disarmament and control of nuclear weapons primarily through its role in the ‘P5 process’. There are three specific areas for action: a concerted effort to build a regime for de-alerting nuclear weapons; strengthening the legal framework for arms control and disarmament, including pressing for the final ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); and developing new verification and transparency measures.

We must also consider the future shape of the UK’s minimum nuclear deterrent. The Trident successor programme (now called Dreadnought) has also moved on since 2013. The paper is clear that the current threats to the United Kingdom do not warrant maintaining a nuclear weapons system held in a Cold War posture. Nor is the ‘like-for-like’ replacement of the Vanguard-Trident fleet required to maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent. With the UK facing no active hostilities with a nuclear power and no immediate territorial threat, the current continuous at-sea deterrent (CASD) posture could be discontinued without threatening the UK’s current or future security.

We propose that the UK should, working with its NATO partners, adopt a medium-readiness responsive deterrent posture. This would see the UK maintaining armed patrols but abandoning CASD and employing new measures, such as gaps in patrols and irregular patrolling patterns. The UK’s adversaries would not know with any certainty when its boats were on patrol, meaning that a credible deterrent would be maintained. Under our proposals, Dreadnought would continue, but we currently envision that three boats instead of four would need to be built.

This way, Liberal Democrats would take a step down the nuclear ladder, in a way that contributes to the UK’s commitments under the NPT and provides others with an incentive to do so as well.  Our change of posture away from continuous patrols could be made in return for similar pledges from other P5 states, under the international nuclear disarmament process. The UK could call for a reduction in nuclear weapons stockpiles, or persuade other states to move away from their current ‘hair-trigger’ postures.

Finally, we would use the next Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in 2020/21 to consider how the UK can best deliver a medium-readiness responsive posture.  The SDSR would look again at the cost of Dreadnought, about which Liberal Democrats have expressed concerns.

The new policy paper sets out a viable strategy to put all nuclear weapons beyond use. The proposals are consistent with our internationalist values and our long-standing commitments to working actively and constructively through alliances, partnerships and international institutions, within a framework of international law.

Update 23 February: The seventh paragraph of the article has been amended to more accurately reflect the detail in the policy paper and the motion. The author will address that edit in the comments.

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  • Mick Taylor 21st Feb '17 - 1:19pm

    The problem is, you put all the arguments as to why the UK should not have nuclear weapons and then refuse to take the logical step of arguing for giving them up. Nothing will ever happen towards nuclear disarmament unless one of the nuclear states makes the first step.
    I cannot be a conference at Easter as I am travelling till August, but I do hope someone will put forward a proper unilateralist amendment and that FCC will have the balls to let it be debated.

  • Just read the exec summary in lunch break.

    Seems to put the meat on the bones of where we were before, but unless I’m missing something, there is very little change proposed on the current party policy. It’s all very well talking about a Strategic Review in Government in 2020-21 but we need something clearer for now.

    The part-time deterrent sounds operationally risky and easy for our opponents to attack; I’m increasingly of the view that we are either all-in or all-out. And please ban any mentions of “taking a step down the nuclear ladder” at all costs!

    There’s no mention of the instability from the current US administration; probably too late to figure in the report (or at least exec summary) but we face the terrifying prospect of potentially not being on the same side as the US in any nuclear war, for the first time in my lifetime. Once upon a time I’d have backed a unilateralist amendment but not now, just too much uncertainty with our so-called allies.

  • Tim was a unilaterist in 1992 (he gave a speech to that effect on the Sunday morning of conference). He is of course entitled to change his mind. But it is fair to ask why.

  • Neil Sandison 21st Feb '17 - 2:45pm

    Should there be greater co-operation with France the other nuclear power in Europe .
    Should we also link this to NATO contributions so that the European continent has a credible defence policy to deter any potential agressor removing our armoured divisions
    out of Germany may need to be revisited.

  • Tony Greaves 21st Feb '17 - 4:50pm

    This paper proposes a policy that is laughable and the rest of the world will indeed laugh at us if we adopt it. It calls for a nuclear-free world and does nothing at all to begin to achieve that. It is stuck in Coalition thinking. All rather sad really.

  • Sorry Neil but I’m afraid I agree with the broad consensus of this thread so far. I have actually never been a unilateralist. My view is that I want a nuclear-free world, but I believe concerted action is the way to get there. In that sense I welcome the general theme that you outline, which at least seems to get us back to declaring that LibDems want to see nuclear weapons gone. At times in the last few years we have seemed reluctant to say that, so to declare it in the title of the paper is progress! But like others here, I don’t see the bold steps that would actually get us there.

  • PS And yes, please. If nothing else, lets put the ‘nuclear ladder’ back in the rhetorical shed, and leave it there. :#]

  • Alan Depauw 21st Feb '17 - 5:07pm

    Dictators and pseudo-dictators have not disappeared. They remain and some are all too ready to bully their neighbours; maintaining the might to do so. They shrug off sanctions and watch for signs of lessening resolve amongst their neighbours’ allies, seeking any opportunity to nudge their ambitions further.

    Stepping down the ladder, as the article proposes, clearly indicates such weakening.
    Worse, a part-time nuclear force invites ridicule. It would obviously be the result of an internal political attempt to appease both the proponents of a credible deterrent and the unilateralists and succeeds satisfying neither.

    Either we go on playing a realistic role in helping to provide a nuclear umbrella, or we embrace unilateralism- whilst, of course, continuing to be protected by that of America.

    Who really believes that partial or even total nuclear disarmament would encourage others to do the same?

    It smacks rather of trying to play the saint on some angelic stage of our making, expecting someone to rush to our aid should the real world intrude.

  • Laurence Cox 21st Feb '17 - 5:19pm

    As other commenters have already noted, there is no middle way between CASD and unilateral nuclear disarmament. Had Hillary been elected, I would have been more ready to argue for the latter, but Trump is not only unpredictable, he also represents a strand of isolationist thinking in the US. Of course, if we really wanted to save money as well as get the new subs built, we would be paying the US to build them (the missiles obviously have to fit both UK and US subs). The US ‘Columbia-class’ replacements are forecast to cost $4.9 billion each (in 2010 $) for numbers 2-12 (the first one has a higher cost). We are already estimating £31bn for our four.

  • Richard Underhill 21st Feb '17 - 5:37pm

    Quiz question: who was the first US President to visit Hiroshima? (Clue: not DJ Trump)
    Who was the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit Pearl Harbour?
    Essay question: If US counter-intelligence had prevented the attack on Pearl Harbour could the bombing of Hiroshima have
    been prevented?

  • You can’t uninvent nuclear weapons and until you can they will exist. If they exist bad people will want them, giving them up wouldn’t stop that.

  • The old Liberal Rowntrees in York and the Cadburys in Bournville used to produce chocolate.

    It looks like they have now been replaced by a Committee who produce a new version of fudge. The ingredients are a mixture of timidity and please don’t frighten the horses.

  • @ Frankie
    Quite – this is the kind of Liberal idealistic nonsense which makes me wonder how so called intelligent people get themselves in positions of power to spout this dangerous stuff.
    We are leaving the EU (in all probability). we have a loose cannon in charge across the pond, we have no idea where we stand on a whole range of security issues at the moment. Indeed there are some very well respected people arguing, on this very site within the last couple of days, that if we leave the EU, war in Europe is almost inevitable (I don’t agree personally. but it gives an idea of the fear of some).

    So, even in the best of times, the first priority of ANY government is towards the security of its citizens.

    Given the very real uncertainly of who our allies will be going forward, this is no time to be sending out the message that we are in any way willing to dilute our defences.
    If anything we should be strengthening them.

    Bad guys will always want a bit of what we hold dear.
    Our first and most important priority is to ensure they see it as their least troublesome alternative not to try.

    Sorry if this sounds a bit harsh, but playing fast and loose with national security is beyond party politics in my book I’m afraid.

  • Another policy debate on a subject we will have no control over, no influence regarding and for the vast majority of the UK population which is of minor importance except when people try to stir things up. On Friday we will be faced with two possible scenarios
    1) a massive by-election success (very unlikely), or
    2) two more by-election failures,

    In either case this our next step will be to solve the problem either
    a) How we build on the success, and get more people to vote for us, or
    b) What we need to do to turn the corner. in order to get more people to vote for us,

    This debate will do nothing to address either of these problems, but it may give a few of us yet another chance to make ourselves feel virtuous, by making yet another speech about the issue.

    I prefer trying to be successful once more.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Feb '17 - 11:05pm

    I agree with David Evans, the whole debate on the issue here, as with faith schools , is opening up pointless discussion on non urgent or immediate issues, that have been settled and need no policy changes from a party like ours.

    The less we posture , the more people might see us as a moderate and radical alternative to the Tories or Labour, the latter are avoiding these subjects, we should.

    The fact is , nuclear weapons , and faith schools , really do relate to the personal conscience, morality , religion, pacifism, etc., it might be a cop out for some, but better than a policy that divides or is pointless, is a free vote when these things arise.

    We need to either decide we want a Liberal Democrat government , in which case we need policies that win. Scrapping nuclear weapons does not. Stopping the better schools doing what they do in some areas does not.

    Or we want to be a strong Liberal and Democratic voice with a number of mps , likely in opposition. Therefore free votes and individual principle.

    Posing as both does neither or nothing impressive.

  • Peter Watson 22nd Feb '17 - 12:59am

    @Lorenzo Cherin “The less we posture , the more people might see us as a moderate and radical alternative to the Tories or Labour, the latter are avoiding these subjects, we should.”
    On the contrary, I believe it is important for Lib Dems to debate and communicate their policies in these and other even more important areas in order to demonstrate that it is a political party and more than just an anti-Brexit pressure group. If it is not seen to stand clearly for (or against) anything else then it risks irrelevance whether or not the UK remains in the EU, particularly if Labour gets it act together.
    Often these days Lib Dems look like a small-c conservative party that opposes change so perhaps it could benefit from some more radical policies. Who knows what else new members and supporters, united by opposition to Brexit, will agree on once we move away from uncontroversial statements about being nice to everybody (apart from Brexiters and Jeremy Corbyn). Policies on nuclear weapons and grammar schools look like soggy compromises designed not to scare the horses (and the approach to faith schools could be the same) so could benefit from being reviewed. The approaches to fracking, nuclear power, tuition fees and NHS reform seem to have flip-flopped in recent years so the party can appear inconsistent on the environment, energy, education and health. Some Lib Dems are proud of Coalition polices while others are ashamed of them. Is there an obvious Lib Dem default position on any policy area, or is it doomed to be a bit of a fudge which won’t frighten away either red or blue voters, or which depends on the whim of the leader or the group that turned up in numbers at a conference?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Feb '17 - 1:17am

    Peter Watson

    A yes and no ! I want policies, but if you read my comments , I do believe that many in politics like posturing at the expense of policies that are more crucial. There are some unilateralists who I have more respect for than many in politics. I am a multilateralist , but think as we are not the government , as the matter has been settled, and as the Greens and much of the Labour party , all of the SNP practically, as well as Plaid Cumru, where do moderate but radical centre and centre left people go if we become unilateralist? To the Brexit centre right moving rightwards Tories ?! In not too many words , where do those like me go , who would not like us to give up our role in the Security Council, or see us reduced even further on the international stage after a very likely Brexit.

    Faith schools and even bringing them up, is far worse. Where are the equals of the principled unilateralists ? The so called humanists and secularists on this issue are merely people with an axe to grind who want to privatise schools that have about two religious studies lessons a week and an assembly, because they hate religion .

    How is it Liberal to force orders of priests and nuns who have morphed into mainly lay or non religious order schools anyway in effect, force them , that is, to change the traditions of over a hundred years , because a few vindictive activists no nothing about them, or want us overnight to separate church and school , when we already do, these schools are schools , not churches. If some are worried about fundamentalist Christian or Muslim schools, why don’t they have the guts to say so, and stop bashing the Catholic and Anglican schools with caring values and academic success ?!

    And please do not think I do not want us to be more than an antiBrexit pressure group, I am one of the most vociferous on here and anywhere , speaking out for us to be more 1

  • Peter Scott Brooks 22nd Feb '17 - 1:57am

    This is an improvement on our current policy as it recognizes the operational need for new subs and the impracticality of unilateralism. I remain to be convinced that abandoning continual deference is workable though.

  • Mick Taylor 22nd Feb '17 - 5:00am

    I agree with Tony Greaves and David Raw.
    This proposed policy is the result of largely talking to ourselves and not allowing the unilateralist position to be put. The party (or rather its predecessor) once got a fright because a young Liberal amendment on nuclear disarmament was passed at a conference (or was it assembly in those days) Of course it was poo pooed by the leader and largely ignored in GE manifestoes, but ever since then we have never had a genuine option of voting for unilateral nuclear disarmament, because despite the best efforts of us unilateralists the FCC simply won’t put in on the agenda.
    Excepting a miracle we won’t win the election in 2020, so why are we still pretending that the policy we adopt on anything will be enacted immediately and therefore we mustn’t rock the boat or frighten the camels?
    I’m in politics – and I’m a lifelong member of our party over 53 years – to promote what I believe in. I am a unilateralist and proud of it. I want FCC to give the conference the opportunity to vote for abolishing our nuclear weapons at the earliest opportunity to show the rest of the world that a nuclear weapons country can step back and give up the bomb. We will never use the bomb in any conceivable circumstances and everyone knows it. So to pretend that it is in some way a deterrent or a defence is to live in some other universe. It’s simply a question of machismo and as Liberals we can surely do without that.

  • Much of the above argument worries me. While I will cheerfully line up with Tony Greaves, David Raw and Mick Taylor, I note the absence of female voices (yes, I know I’m not helping) and the linguistic confusions. “You can’t uninvent” arguments represent a complacent and deed-rooted pessimism. References to saints and “bad people” I find ethically dubious. George Orwell would have had a field day deconstructing our clichés and driving us back to political principles

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 22nd Feb '17 - 7:58am

    Lorenzo, you ask “where do moderate but radical centre and centre left people go if we become unilateralist?” But in fact there are many people who are “moderate but radical centre and centre left”, who also strongly believe that Britain should not have nuclear weapons. These people do not, at present, have any party that exactly represents their views. If they decide that for them, getting rid of nuclear weapons is the most important issue, they will have to vote Green, or vote SNP if they are in Scotland, even if these parties are too left wing for them in other ways. Or they may decide to support Labour, because of Corbyn’s support of unilateralism, despite Labour’s official position being “multilateralist”. Others decide to compromise on the nuclear weapons issue, and support the Lib Dems, but will be very unhappy about the party’s continuing support for nuclear weapons. I feel that if the party does have the courage to adopt a unilateralist policy, it may well lead to a surge in support for the Lib Dems.

  • Dean Crofts 22nd Feb '17 - 8:23am

    Another debate at conference which is not going to ignite interest from the general public or media – we need to discuss at conference how we as a Liberal Democrat party are to engage with voters and create policies that the majority will vote for.

    Why does Federal Policy Committee or conference group not select debates which will make us win elections?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 22nd Feb '17 - 8:37am

    Geoff Reid, You mention the absence of female voices (though this often applies to Lib Dem Voice in general). I am trying to do something to redress this now!
    I didn’t have a chance to go on Lib Dem Voice much yesterday, but I would like to say now that I strongly agree with Mick Taylor’s comments. This motion is very disappointing. It pays lip service to a desire for “a world without nuclear weapons”, but does not have to courage to advocate the thing that would really contribute to bringing this about – Britain making the first move, and unilaterally getting rid of all nuclear weapons.
    The motion admits that we do not need the same level of defense that may have been needed during the cold war, and yet it says that this is not the time to get rid of nuclear weapons altogether. It does not really give any reasons why the time is not right to take this step.
    I’m afraid it is fairly obvious why it has been decided that “this is not the time” to adopt a unilateralist policy. The only reason, is that it is feared that a unilateralist policy would harm the party’s electoral prospects. In fact I very much doubt that it would harm the party electorally. It could well lead to a surge in support. As I said in my reply to Lorenzo, above, there is, at present no liberal, centre party which has a unilateralist policy, but many would support such a party. Becoming unilateralist would not mean that the Lib Dems had moved to the left, as some may fear. There is really nothing necessarily left wing about getting rid of nuclear weapons. It is not a left wing issue, but a moral issue. It simply cannot be morally justified to possess weapons that would, if used, inevitably kill many thousands of innocent civilians. It is generally accepted that to target civilians is a war crime. So the use of nuclear weapons would be the ultimate war crime.
    I very much hope that a unilateralist amendment to this motion will be accepted for debate at conference. It is essential that members should be given a real choice, with a unilateralist policy being offered as an option.

  • What is somewhat surprising about Lorenzo Cherin’s comments is that he makes much of his Irish/Italian heritage and roots – and yet – neither Ireland or Italy feels the need to have nuclear weapons……. nor, apart from France, does any other European country.

    Catherine is quite right to point to the SNP and the Green position. If opposition to Trident was such a vote loser then why is it that these two parties together have a majority at Holyrood ?

    I’m afraid Lorenzo’s version of the glorious history of Imperial Britain is far removed from the actuality. British Imperialism was often nasty and brutal and driven by the profit potential for the few.

    Trident is a colossal waste of resources at a time when there are so many social issues to fund and to resolve.

  • Duncan greenland 22nd Feb '17 - 9:22am

    What a feeble fudge the policy paper puts forward .
    The weakness of the analysis is encapsulated at # 1.2.5 that ” it is conceivable that
    What a feeble fudge the policy paper represents !
    The best it can do is argue at # 1.2 5 that ” it is conceivable that
    Britain’s possession of a viable nuclear deterrent would contribute significantly to the
    security of its people”.
    Is it not much more probable that the maintenance of a weapon system , for which its advocates are unable ever to explain to the circumstances in which it might conceivably be used , is a complete waste of scarce national resources.
    I look forward to supporting an amendment that would take a clear position against
    any continuation of a nuclear weapons capability.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Feb '17 - 12:49pm


    You are one of the few political activists who I can not only disagree with but enjoy it because you are so thoughtful and friendly. I think if I really do become convinced that there is a centre left rather than left, or , better, a centre , a radical one where my politics are, which is unilateralist , I could be persuaded, but not now. I am not on the left , everyone who pushes , and unlike you I mean pushes , the view,is left. Maybe I need to spend some time on the Bright Blue liberal Tory site and find some unilateralists I can be to the left of !


    If I remember , you are from a Quaker tradition, one I respect more than very many, the contribution is significant for so much that is good. However , the stance does not lend itself to credible policy making when it comes to a mainstream party putting together a defence policy. With all due respect the swathe of opinion in this country on these issues is far more gung ho than me and I am no unilateralist but open to persuasion.


    Please see this as well intentioned, I do not get how you could read so much I have contributed and not get it at all ?! It is because of my lineage that I realise hoe compared to other countries , this one , my country , has a significant role in the world others do not have ! That is not imperialism, a word I have never used . Are you aware that the period from the second world war was known for the imperialism of countries other than this one who were the most evil powers the world has seen and this one and its allies fought ?! Am I a supporter of some dim and antiquated imperialism because I do not want the security council of the un to be four not five and minus this country ?!Am I not aloud to be mindful and aware of the fact that this country was where my father settled because he saw it as an important force for mainstream common sense ?!

  • Peter Watson 22nd Feb '17 - 12:51pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin “The so called humanists and secularists on this issue are merely people with an axe to grind who want to privatise schools that have about two religious studies lessons a week and an assembly, because they hate religion .”
    Perhaps. Perhaps not.
    Debating the issue of faith schools would at least show me and other potential voters where the Lib Dem position averages out on the important issue of religious faith and secularity where tolerance and liberalism can sometimes clash. And a pragmatic and tolerant compromise might be one that improves the school system more generally (exploitation of the catchment for notionally faith-based grammar schools is a particular niggle of mine).
    I accept your point that some of these issues might not be the most important or urgent things to discuss: maybe there should be (or is, I don’t know the policy-making structure of the party) a debate to identify what those highest priority policy areas are. My concern is that in many areas, there is not an obvious or natural Lib Dem position once people get into the details and compromises, which means I am not clear how Lib Dems would choose to influence a government, where it would support and where it would oppose, if it had that opportunity again. Perhaps a “Preamble scorecard” could be used to evaluate priorities and trade-offs?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Feb '17 - 1:20pm

    Peter Watson

    You every time please me with your enthusiasm for welcome debate, believev me debate delights , it is demonising I loathe, and that is what some do.

    The supposed issue with so called faith schools is a baffling one.

    A Liberal Democrat stance should be one that allows individuals and communities to decide on the schools that are wanted or needed. It should welcome pluralism and equality.

    To say to a religious sector that has an educational tradition and expertise going back centuries, one publicly funded going back decades, you cannot have public funds unless…, is illiterate politically, worse than iliberal ! It says , we know best , certainly better than you and your tradition and expertise.

    Worse, it says , we want no tradition other than this one we like and want it imposed on you and your kids even if you and your kids want something else.

    It is not secularism it is socialism ! And not the socialism of the sensible flexible sort, a socialism that is same- ism !!!

    We can stipulate to all schools, you should have half your entry from any faith, that would be fine. To say to schools , you cannot ask or encourage any question of the faith of the pupil , when very many want such character in their schools, is to deny choices available for an age !

    I want more provision not less, more choices that are genuine not fake, more tolerance , not dictatorship of the know alls !

    Some who want us to be like other countries do not understand this one or any of its traditions , many of which are radical and progressive, or at least not draconian or conservative, including its decent schools!

  • I agree with Tony Greaves. Given how long people have been talking about unilateral nuclear disarmament (since the 1950’s), I suggest a more useful paper and debate is to consider the post-Trident world, that is envisaged to arrive in the 2060s…

    Yes, we have little idea of what the world will look like then, but what is certain, that world will be built bit-by-bit upon the thoughts and actions taken today.

  • Leekliberal 22nd Feb '17 - 2:23pm

    Just when I finally had moved from being a lifelong multilateralist to a non-renewal position we had the Brexit vote and then Trump and suddenly the world is a dangerous place again and now I am a ‘don’t know’! My one plea to the policy working party is that if they go for a ‘fudge’ again it is more rigorously thought out and defendable than the current policy which convinced almost nobody and was subject to ridicule.

  • Neil Stockley 23rd Feb '17 - 10:43pm


    There is much more substance to the paper than the promise of a new Strategic Review in 2020/21. The paper proposes changes in policy to reflect the changed international security environment. Most importantly, it lays out a UK strategy to promote international action on nuclear disarmament. In terms of the Dreadnought programme, the paper proposes a shift to medium readiness responsive posture (as opposed to a contingency posture, our current policy).

    The policy paper does not propose “a part-time deterrent” – armed patrols would be maintained but they would not need to be constant unless the threat of attack became imminent. This seems the most appropriate posture to the security threats currently faced by the UK. (Having read your and @Alan Depaw’s comment on this point, I have had my article corrected to reflect more accurately proposals in the policy motion and the policy paper.)

    The policy paper discusses in five places the implications of the Trump Administration for UK and global security. In para 3.8.4, it concludes that the new President’s comments on NATO strengthen the case for an effective UK nuclear deterrent.

    @ Alan Depauw

    The paper does not propose “a part time nuclear force” – please see my response to @tpkfar above.

    You say that the paper “smacks rather of trying to play the saint on some angelic stage of our making”. Surely you agree that the UK should act in accordance with its legal obligations under the NPT?

  • Neil Stockley 23rd Feb '17 - 10:44pm

    @Frankie @David S

    “You can’t uninvent nuclear weapons and until you can they will exist. If they exist bad people will want them, giving them up wouldn’t stop that.”

    The policy paper comes out against a one-sided nuclear disarmament for the UK. At the same time, the paper is clear that this country should be doing all it can, and more than at present, to ensure that nuclear weapons are put permanently beyond use, in keeping with its legal obligations.

  • Neil Stockley 23rd Feb '17 - 10:45pm

    @Mick Taylor @Catherine Jane Crosland @Duncan greenland

    The FCC will, of course, make its own decision on which amendments to take. (Let’s be fair here Mick, they have accepted for debate “unilateralist” motions and amendments – at least three times in the last ten years, as I recall.)

    If the FCC takes an amendment calling for the abolition of UK nuclear weapons, its proponents will need to convince conference that it would result in threshold states giving up their ambitions and nuclear weapons states cutting back significantly and phasing out their nuclear weapons capability.

    @ Meg Thomas

    You mean, a nuclear free Britain that still shelters under the NATO nuclear umbrella? And how will that achieve a nuclear weapons free world? (Please see my comment above).

    We should be very cautious about claiming that a one-sided nuclear disarmament would deliver “more money for public services”.

    The policy working group heard evidence that, even if a future UK Government did away with nuclear weapons altogether, any financial dividends wouldn’t appear for up to ten years. And the UK would still need to pay for conventional forces and a submarine capability.

  • Andrew Melmoth 23rd Feb '17 - 11:44pm

    Our nuclear weapons are unusable without technical support from the Americans. With Trump in the white house we may well end up unilaterally disarming whether we like it or not.

  • Denis Mollison 24th Feb '17 - 8:16am

    On nuclear weapons, I wish we could just drop this motion. It stirs up internal conflicts, while changing our policy in ways that ordinary people won’t notice.

    On faith schools, a clear liberal principle is that all our children should be educated together, whatever their parents’ religious beliefs. Another is that the religious beliefs (or otherwise) of a teacher should not be a bar to them getting a job in any state-supported school. On both counts, most state-supported faith schools need at the least to change substantially. But this is not the most pressing political issue on schools, which is the proliferation of academic discrimination, particularly the drive for new grammar schools despite the consistent evidence that overall performance of pupils is worse in a system including grammar schools and the privatisation of state school management.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 24th Feb '17 - 8:54am

    Denis Mollison, Although there may be some “internal conflicts” over this issue, there would be far more conflict and resentment if members were not offered a real choice of policy on this important issue, including the opportunity to vote for a unilateralist approach. What makes you so sure that “ordinary people” won’t notice? How do you define “ordinary” ?

  • I have a great deal of respect for those who hold deeply felt unilateralist beliefs. And many of those sentiments are reflected here.

    I do however take contention with those who seem to suggest that ‘the powers that be’ or the FPC or the FCC keep thwarting their will. I have been a member for 20 years and been to pretty much every conference since. And we have had this debate around once every three years – usually at the behest of the small but vocal unilateralist caucus.

    Every time conference votes to maintain the Party’s long held multilateralist, internationalist ideals.

    Its not that the unilateralist argument isn’t put – it is consistently – it is just that it is rejected – consistently – by conference – albeit at times the vote is close.

    I hope conference sticks with the Party’s long-held approach again in March.

    This will be the first time we have had this vote under one member one vote rather than voting from party reps only. Lets see how it goes. But my instinct is:

    1. Brexit, Trump, Russia, et al makes it more important to stick to our internationalist principles. Unilateralism just does not fit with what is required at the moment. We need to stand up for NATO and the Atlantic Alliance – and yes that means the policy of nuclear deterrence.

    2. Those that have joined the party since 2015 had the choice of a joining the swell of activism around the unilateralist Corbyn. They didn’t, they joined us, the internationalist, multi-lateralist Lib Dems. So I think the unilateralists in our party will be a much smaller caucus than before.

    3. The sole goal of nuclear weapons policy should be to prevent a nuclear war ever happening. That is the highest moral principle. Possession of nuclear weapons for the express purposes of preventing that is a highly moral position. I look dimly on others claiming the moral high ground when what they are expressing is merely a tactic (the UK renouncing its nuclear weapon capability) rather than a strategy (preventing nuclear war ever happening). I hope that conference will not be brow beaten into believing the only moral and progressive position is unilateralism. It is not.

  • Ask yourself this question:

    If the UK scraps its nuclear weapons, will nuclear war in the future be less likely or more likely? Will disarmament be more likely or less likely?

    Think about who currently has their finger on the nuclear button – Trump, Putin, Netanyahu, Kim Jon-un, Xi, (and god forbid Le pen) to name a few.

    I may have my beef with Theresa May, I want Britain at the table leading rather than just washing our hands of it all, walking away and sheltering under the NATO umbrella.

  • Denis Mollison 24th Feb '17 - 7:28pm

    @Catherine Jane Crosland
    Dear Catherine, you misunderstood me. I meant the motion itself, which seems to offer very minor changes to our existing policy. Unilateralism would of course be a big change, and many ordinary people would notice.

  • Chris Randall 25th Feb '17 - 8:01pm

    The truth is we have got to get a grip of this we are discussing what we should do , well it is very easy as ex services. The answer is simple you cannot continue with such a small conventional force. It has reached the scale of being less then at the advent of the Boer War, smaller then the start of WW1 or 2. No longer big enough to be described as an Army. The truth is it is two thirds as big as was needed to keep the lid on Northern Ireland in the mid seventies. Now it seems a lot of people want to buy the Rolls Royce whilst all we can afford is a secondhand compact mini. I have gone through this when I joined up we had 1600 Centurians, then 980 Cheiftains , then 480 Challenger 1s and now around 280 Challenger 2s. There are 3 choices 1. Carry on as we are with a system we can’t afford swallowing cash, 2. Get rid of it all and have a transmitter transmitting in every language we surrender, we surrender, Or 3. Get rid of our nuclear option and use the 2% of GDP to fund a proper fully scaled set of armed forces. They are choices not something inbetween and incapable to meet the requirement.

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