Friday, 1 May 2015

Labour undermines its own disarmament credentials

Ed Miliband asserted in Thursday's BBC Question Time TV debate with the audience  in Leeds "I’m not going to give in for SNP demands around Trident". Even assuming he sticks to this pledge post-election, if he is prime minister, he will still have to negotiate on Trident, not with SNP, but with 190 governments. 

As the Leeds debate was being held, the biggest global conference addressing nuclear security and disarmament was under way at the United Nations in New York. (, having opened  on Monday, and running until 22nd May.

The190-member state Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), dating from 1968, and for which the UK, along with United States and Russia, is a 'depositary state', sets out at its article 6:

 “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament….”

Foreign Office minister, Baroness Anelay of St Johns, told the NPT conference plenary on Monday afternoon:

 “Let me be clear: the UK is here to negotiate in good faith, and we will continue to strive to build the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. That is why we are making parallel progress on the building blocks for global nuclear disarmament.”

She also asserted hypocritically: “Some would like to force the speed of disarmament without taking into account wider security considerations. This risks jeopardising the achievements of the NPT and undermining its future.”

In papers I uncovered at the National Archives in Kew, they show that on 23 January 1968, Fred (later Lord) Mulley - as the UK 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." (my emphasis)

Labour ministers were responsible for the drafting of the NPT in the late 1960s.  They should be proudly proclaiming their role in establishing this diplomatic triumph. Instead, Labour's pro-Trident renewal  policy is undermining the credibility of this multilateral treaty, and shredding Labour’s political credibility.

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