Trident motions

I’m just about to upload another article on Trident. Here for reference is the Federal Policy Committee motion which is going to conference, and the amendments proposed by the LD peace and security group.

There was a working group set up on the future of Trident – the FPC motion reflects the majority report (PDF) of that group, which was voted for by seven members. The amendments reflect a minority report, supported by three members of the working group. These figures are fact, and are not intended to promote or diminish the standing of either report – at this stage it looks like the conference vote could be a close call.

In brief, as I understand it the official motion basically says we should keep Trident going for as long as possible, but immediately halve the number of warheads we have. A final decision on Trident should be taken in 2014. The effect of the amendment would be to scrap Trident at the end of its extended lifespan, rather than waiting until 2014 to make the decision.

The FPC motion on Trident

The Future of Britain’s Nuclear Deterrent
Conference notes the publication on 4th December 2006 of the White Paper The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent that sets out the Labour Government’s position to:
I. Maintain Britain’s nuclear deterrent.II. Reduce the stockpile of operationally available warheads by 20%.III. Participate in the US life extension programme for the Trident D5 missile. 

    IV. Take a decision on the future of the UK’s nuclear warheads in the next parliament.
    V. Begin immediately the procurement of a new class of submarine to replace the four Vanguard class submarines, extending the life of the Vanguard class by five years if necessary.

VI. Take a decision on the number of new submarines required at a later date.
Conference:

    i) Reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitment of seeking to achieve the global elimination of nuclear weapons and recalls Liberal Democrat policy on Britain’s nuclear weapons, as set out in Defending Democracy (2002) and the General Election Manifesto 2005, The Real Alternative, that ‘we would retain the UK’s current minimum nuclear deterrent for the foreseeable future, until sufficient progress has been made towards the global elimination of such weapons’.
    ii) Pledges the party to do all in its power to ensure that Britain abides by its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in particular in making more effective the review conferences on the NPT.
    iii) Urges all nuclear weapons states, whether party to the NPT or not, to engage through negotiation and through independent actions in a process of nuclear disarmament; in particular it urges those states that have yet to do so, including India, Pakistan, China, and the United States, to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) so that it can enter into force.
    iv) Considers that none of the world’s current nuclear weapons states poses a present threat to the UK and that nuclear weapons provide no defence or deterrent against terrorism.
    v) Recognises the medium- and long-term possibility that new threats could arise to the United Kingdom as a result of global or regional instability and conflict caused by factors such as competition for resources, particularly energy, the effects of climate change, failing states, aggressive or oppressive regimes, social and economic marginalisation and the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons, expertise and materials.
    vi) Observes with serious concern the nuclear weapons test undertaken by the Government of North Korea and the continuing enrichment of uranium by the Government of Iran in contravention of Security Council Resolution 1696 and urges these states to cease these programmes.
    vii) Particularly recognises the danger over the next decade of the proliferation of states possessing nuclear weapons and the pressure this would place on other regional powers to consider acquiring nuclear weapons themselves, including the possibility of one or more of such states posing a threat to Britain, its neighbours and allies.
    viii) Considers that a decision by Britain to renounce its nuclear weapons capability can be taken at any time, while recognising that the timing of such a decision has financial implications, and would be, in practice, very difficult to reverse.

Conference therefore:

    A. Believes that in the light of such circumstances it would be unwise at present for Britain to renounce its nuclear weapons but that in the current situation Britain no longer needs the size of deterrent that the present Trident system represents.
    B. Notes the House of Commons Defence Committee 2006 report, The Future of the UK’s Strategic Nuclear Deterrent, which concludes that with a programme to extend the life of the four Vanguard class submarines no binding decision needs to be made on a replacement for Trident at this time.
    C. Recognises that on current planning assumptions, the most cost-effective replacement system to provide the UK with a minimum deterrent would be a submarine system based on the Trident missile reduced to three boats.
    D. Further believes that such a significant reduction to Britain’s nuclear arsenal would:
      i) Send a strong signal to non-nuclear weapons states that Britain continues to meet its obligations under the NPT.

ii) Provide cost savings that could be used for other defence purposes.
Conference therefore resolves that:

    a) Britain should now begin a major reduction of its nuclear arsenal by approximately 50%, retaining no more than 100 warheads; with each Trident submarine carrying no more than 24 warheads when on deterrence patrol.
    b) The current Trident nuclear system should be maintained and its operational life extended.
    c) A final decision on whether, and if so how, to procure any successor system be taken at the point when the significant capital spending would begin to be incurred on a three-boat replacement.

Conference therefore calls on the Government to follow this course in order that a final decision on the manufacture of a successor to the Vanguard class submarines be taken in 2014. Such a policy would allow:

    1. The reduction of Britain’s nuclear capacity by 50% to reinvigorate the multilateral disarmament process.
    2. A clearer picture to develop concerning the proliferation of states that possess nuclear weapons and their ability to directly threaten Britain, its neighbours and allies.
    3. Further consideration of the alternatives available based on a reduced minimum deterrent, including investigating co-operating more closely on the procurement and deployment of nuclear systems with NATO and European allies subject to the constraints on such cooperation imposed by Article I of the NPT.
    4. Priority to be given to increasing the support for UK conventional armed forces at home and abroad.

The proposed amendments from the Peace and Security group

Insert in paragraph (v), after “… expertise and materials” at end:

“but believes that the UK‘s best defence against such threats lies in strong alliances with other democratic states;”

Insert in paragraph (vi), after “… cease these programmes” at end:

“but notes that neither state poses a direct military threat to the UK;”

Insert in paragraph (vii), after “… neighbours and allies” at end:

“but also recognises that by replacing Trident the Uk could well encourage other states to see nuclear weapons as essential to their own security and status, thus increasing the danger of proliferation;”

Delete paragaph (viii) and all after “Conference therefore” and substitute:

“Conference further notes that:

1. the UK‘s dependence on US co-operation to maintain the Trident system has influenced UK governments to identify too closely with US policy and interests to the detriment of our position in Europe and beyond;

2. the money required for replacing Trident would be better spent on strengthening and equipping our conventional forces which serve the true defence needs of the UK.

Conference therefore resolves that the UK should not procure a successor nuclear weapons system to the current Trident system.”

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2 Comments

  • Here in Southport we had a discussion on Trident at our Executive meeting last night. On a straw poll those present voted 7 for the amendment as opposed to 10 for the motion unamended. I guess that is probably a resonable approximation of how the Conference vote will go.

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