Letter submitted to The Guardian:
In his timely article (“Corbyn has to lead on nuclear weapons,” The Guardian, 29 March; www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/29/nuclear-weapons-jeremy-corbyn-apocalypse) Owen Jones rightly highlights the Trident obsession by ministers and many Labour MPs.
But the exhortation in the headline is misplaced. Corbyn consistently does just what it wants, but his words do not get reported.
For example, in a debate in Parliament on Monday evening ( 26 March) on ‘National Security and Russia’ he stressed:
“We should not be about to mark the 50th anniversary of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty this June while its two key signatories, Russia and the United States, are behaving as though it no longer applies to them. It was a Labour Government who, in 1968, promoted the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). We urgently need the other signatories to that treaty, including the United Kingdom, to take a lead in insisting that Russia, the US and all other nuclear powers return to the negotiating table and to the principles that underpinned that very important treaty in 1968.”
Corbyn’s history is accurate: on 27 June 1968 the then Labour government presented to Parliament the final text of the NPT (as Cmnd 3683), which Labour ministers had helped negotiate.
Papers available in the National Archives show that earlier that year, on 23 January 1968, Fred (later Lord) Mulley, as the Labour Government's disarmament minister, told the UN committee on disarmament, why nations should sign up to the newly negotiated NPT:
" it is our desire that these [nuclear disarmament] 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."
But ministers ambiguously share this atomic aspiration. Lib Dem peer, Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, was told by foreign office minister Lord Ahmad on 22 March:
“As a responsible nuclear weapons state, the UK is committed to the long term goal of a world without nuclear weapons... However, we do not believe the UN High Level Conference in May 2018 will lead to effective progress on nuclear disarmament. It will not address the serious threats to international peace and security posed by nuclear proliferation nor will it take account of the international security environment.” HL6201