On Monday 18th July, the House of Commons will be asked to vote on the renewal of our nuclear deterrent, Trident.
Unfortunately, as we were given very short notice of this vote and due to attending my son’s graduation today, I am unable to be in Parliament to vote on this matter. If I was able to be in Parliament for the vote I would have voted for renewal. Therefore, I want to outline my position on the future of our nuclear deterrent for constituents in the spirit of openness and transparency as your elected representative.
Like the overwhelming majority of people, both here in the UK and worldwide, I fully support international efforts toward multilateral nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and I believe our efforts on the international stage must be directed towards this goal of a world with far fewer nuclear weapons, leading to one day whereby they are not a part of any country’s defence strategy.
The UK has taken significant steps to reduce our nuclear arsenal, estimated at nearly a 75% reduction since the end of the Cold War and it is important we continue down this road. Much of the work done on this was by the previous Labour Government which took important steps, through international frameworks, to reduce our nuclear deterrent programme - including, halving the number of operationally available warheads and a reduction in the number of deployed warheads on each of our submarines.
I believe it is vital that we continue to build on the work of the last Labour Government and push for greater global disarmament. Sadly, this has not been seen by this current Government.
This is an important vote on our national security and position in the world, that is why the manner of this vote brought before Parliament by the Government is deeply disappointing. The debate is planned to be rushed through Parliament today without any chance of full scrutiny of the plans presented to us as elected representatives for our local areas, especially on policy which will have such financial implications with the spending of billions of taxpayer’s money. It is imperative that on a matter of national security and defence, and one on which people hold very strong feelings, that Parliament has the chance to fully scrutinise Government plans.
In an insecure and uncertain world, Britain must retain the minimum credible independent nuclear deterrent possible, which is best delivered through a continuous-at-sea deterrent. This is why I feel there must be further debate in Parliament to ensure scrutiny on the costs of our current deterrent and its renewal, and what a minimum deterrent, which is still considered operational and effective as a deterrent would look like.
When other countries possess nuclear weapons and technology that cannot be un-invented, and talks have stalled on the moves to disarmament, it is important that we have a full and frank debate on this matter that includes renewed efforts to multilaterally disarm but also ensures a cost-effective deterrent until that moment comes.
It is paramount that multilateral disarmament is our continued policy position, and not unilateral disarmament. If Britain was to unilaterally disarm, this could not only jeopardise the defence of our country but could also weaken our position on the international stage where we continually stand up for our values of freedom, human rights and peace around the world. We should not be isolating ourselves from our international partners, especially in such uncertain times.
There is also concerns raised about the jobs of those who work closely with Trident and within the supply chain, including two companies here in Washington and Sunderland West. This aspect of the debate around disarmament can often be forgotten, and if we are to disarm, then we need to have plans in place that support those who would lose their jobs if we were to disarm. The Government estimates that 30,000 jobs rely upon our continued nuclear deterrent programme.
It is absolutely clear that nobody likes nuclear weapons and we would all prefer a nuclear-free world, however, in such uncertain times we need to make sure that we are protected, and also our allies, including NATO, and this must be taken into account when making any decision to renew Trident.
That is why I hope during the debate that consideration is taken on this matter and clear plans are put in place to achieve our goal of multilateral disarmament.