Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Disarmament deception

What a depressing,  vote-losing and hopeless response to the Trident Alternative Review (TAR) from Labour's shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy when he said "Labour has always said that we are committed to the minimum credible independent nuclear deterrent,"("Trident  set to  be kept afloat after Labour snubs Lib Dem plans," Independent, 17 July)

Lib Dem deputy prime minister Nick Clegg calls for a fact-based debate on theUK nuclear WMDs. Here is a start.

In papers I uncovered at  the National Archives in Kew, they show that on 23 January 1968, Fred (later Lord) Mulley - as the UK Labour Government's minister of state for foreign affairs -  addressed the 358th plenary meeting of the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) in Geneva, explaining why nations should sign up to the newly negotiated Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), he told the ministerial delegations:

"As I have made clear in previous speeches, my government accepts the obligation to participate fully in the negotiations required by [NPT] Article VI and it is our desire that these negotiations should begin as soon as possible and should produce speedy and successful results. There is no excuse now for allowing a long delay to follow the signing of this treaty."

Instead of entering into multilateral negotiations to fulfil our commitments to the NPT, as Mulley had promised, the next Labour government in the mid-1970s, secretly modernised  the UK’s  Polaris nuclear WMD with Chevaline, without consulting - or even telling – Parliament: it took the Conservatives to reveal it in 1980.

On Monday last week Tory foreign office minister Baroness Warsi told peers in a written answer that the UK will not be participating in the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group on Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations "because Government considers that the Conference on Disarmament, not the OEWG, provides the correct forum for taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. The Government considers that a practical step by step approach is needed, using existing mechanisms such as the Non Proliferation Treaty and the Conference on disarmament." (Lords Hansard, 15 July: Column WA93

With Tory defence secretary Philip Hammond telling the Today Programme listeners on Radio Four on Tuesday morning, 16 July, he could see Trident2 needed for at least sixty years hence, that would be over 100 years without any nuclear disarmament under Tory plans.

In the late 1960s the modernising Labour Government set a fine precedent in negotiating the NPT, and establishing the foundatiions for making the UK - and the wider world - a more secure place without nuclear weapons.

The current Labour Leader Ed Miliband has an opportune chance to build on this trailblazing tradition, by resurrecting the NPT commitment, and at the same time to show you can see more secure without nuclear weapons, which is a strong message to send Iran, North Korea and, Pakistan, India and Israel.

Mr Murphy's instant rejection was totally unhelpful.

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