Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Kamel that broke Straw's back

Letter to The Independent on 27 October:
Despite several analytical articles on Monday (26 October), including your editorial
and several letters from correspondents on Tuesday (27 Oct.) none has really understood the problem  with  Tony Blair’s purported apology  over last weekend on CNN television, on which he allegedly “apologised  for the fact the intelligence we received [on Saddam’s WMDs] was wrong.”

The intelligence on Iraqi WMDs was not “wrong” or “overstated” (as your leader put it) or "doubtful" ( as Sir Menzies Campbell asserted): it was correct, but shamelessly cherry picked by Blair and his political sidekick, Jack Straw.

The now retired MP Jack Straw, Blair’s own Foreign Secretary at the time of the invasion  of Iraq made his own swansong Parliamentary intervention on Iraq earlier in the year during a debate on the Chilcot report delay, asserting:

  “For the avoidance of doubt the whole Security Council judged in November 2002 that there was a threat to international peace and security from Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction."
The firebrand George Galloway – then a Respect MP-  who had correctly predicted  mass chaos in Iraq if the invasion went ahead, bellowed back: “Because they believed you and Colin Powell.” (29 January 2015: Column 1035 et seq)

Wind-back 12 years: the  3 March 2003 edition of  the US magazine Newsweek reported in an article ‘The Defector’s Secrets’ - which went almost entirely unreported in the UK- that:

 “Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995 that after the gulf war, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them.Kamel was Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law and had direct knowledge of what he claimed: for 10 years he had run Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs.”

In light of this, how did Tony Blair report to Parliament - in the debate and fateful vote that finally took us to war -  what the British Government  knew of  the Hussein Kamel claims?

”...In August, it provided yet another full and final declaration. Then, a week later, Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, defected to Jordan. He disclosed a far more extensive biological weapons programme and, for the first time, said that Iraq had weaponised the programme—something that Saddam had always strenuously denied. All this had been happening while the inspectors were in Iraq.
Kamal also revealed Iraq's crash programme to produce a nuclear weapon in the 1990s. 18 March 2003 : Column 762 (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmhansrd/vo030318/debtext/30318-06.htm#30318-06_spmin2)

A week later, Llew Smith MP, a Labour back bencher, and opponent of the war, for whom I then worked, asked  Prime Minister Blair  him a follow-up question whether he would place in the  Parliamentary Library the text of the interview, so the full context of Blair’s extract could be understood 

Blair responded: “Following his defection, Hussein Kamel was interviewed by UNSCOM and by a number of other agencies. Details concerning the interviews were made available to us on a confidential basis. The UK was not provided with transcripts of the interviews.”  (Hansard, 26 March 2003 : Column 235W)

But Blair inexplicably did not find time or room to share with Parliament the other key revelation made by Kamel in that notorious interview, viz:

“all weapons- biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed.”
Full text at:

It was a disgraceful deception of Parliament; but other MPs should have been less gullible, more inquisitive, and have scrutinized Government assertions with greater commitment by demanding evidence. Pity they didn’t: if they had, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians - and 179 brave British  military may still be alive today.

 And many more would not be maimed for life.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Michael Meacher- the greatest environment secretary we never had

I worked as a specialist researcher for Michael Meacher in the nine months running up to the 1997 General Election landslide win for labour, preparing policy papers as Michael advanced the g cause of sustainability as shadow environmental protection secretary. As you rightly record Tony Blair chose to break Labour Party rules in denying Michael  his rightful place as a Cabinet minister. Nonetheless, as one of several junior minister sin John Prescott’s super-ministry covering  Environment, Transport and  regional government, Michael de facto led the environmental brief for several years until Margaret Beckett was appointed as  full Environment Secretary.

He spent un unusually long time- six years – as a junior minister in the same post, and gradually grew tired of both ministers and departmental officials and advisory panels  undermining true environmental policies, as Blair’s Number 10 interfered over policies on genetic modification and nuclear energy, on  which he was extremely skeptical.

Indeed,  barely days after the world’s greatest terrorist  event, the attacks on 9/11 in the US, he had a stand up  fight in the Environment Department with Mrs Beckett, who was pushing through the Blair-backed plan to trade globally with nuclear explosives  in opening  a plutonium-fuels fabrication plant at Sellafield, costing several billion pounds. Blair won, but Meacher was right, as the plant has proved a technical failure and economic disaster.

After that, Michael decided his own advisors could not be trusted as objective (as his friend and political fellow traveller on the left,Tony Benn had done in the late1970s), again over dodgy nuclear advice), and he created shadow advice panel on radioactive waste, including myself, which did its best to present him with more objective evidence-based advice than his own departmental  officials were presenting him.

Time has proved our independent advice significantly more accurate, as the nuclear waste disposal strategy finally collapsed too.

Time will show Michael Meacher the best Environment Secretary we never had.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

The Return of Atomic Freddy

The Planet of the Apes (atomic power enthusiasts) has new life this week.

On Monday night China’s President Xi arrived in London, and the media have been solidly briefed he will sign a series of commercial agreements on Wednesday consolidating China’s inward investment into UK infrastructure: with  the jewell in the crown the backing for new nuclear power.

The nuclear promoters have long berated anti-nuclear activists, arguing extravagantly if we don’t have new nuclear, we will go back to the cave man era, and freeze in the dark. As it happens,  Xi Jinping- or Uncle Xi as the Communist Party of China propaganda a machine would have him called by China’s 1.3 citizens- was actually brought up for seven  years in his youth  in a cave house, when his father, a major party figure, was exiled to the country from Beijing under the Cultural Revolution re-education programme. (http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article4589616.ece)

So now the nuclear neanderthals have their champion in Xi Jinping, and Britain’s first new nuclear power plant since 1995 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Energy)  - when the rump of the old state-owned nuclear industry in the guise of Nuclear Electric was privatised as British Energy (since itself bought out by French State power generator, Electricte de France) – is to be built by UK subsidiary EDF Energy in the first new twin reactor nuclear station at Hinkley C-  for a total current cost of an eye-watering £24.5 billion.

How can we explain how an industry moribund for nearly a quarter of a century can be resurrected from the dead like Freddy Krueger in the cult horror film series Nightmare on Elm Street? Is there some kind of hidden driver that sees the hyper pro-market chancellor George Osborne elbow aside  his energy secretary Amber Rudd, to take over the nuclear  deal with Beijing, (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/sep/25/george-osborne-presses-on-with-hinkley-power-station-despite-criticism) which he and David Cameron started two years ago with their charm offensive visit to China (“China companies to take major part in UK nuclear power developments, British chancellor reveals,” South China Morning Post, Thursday 17 October, 2013; http://www.scmp.com/business/economy/article/1333628/uk-allow-china-majority-stakes-nuclear-projects-osborne) to establish a nuclear power partnership that involves the Chinese State Investment bank, two Chinese state owned nuclear companies , the French State owned nuclear Generator, (EDF), the French Stater-owned ( and near bankrupt) reactor design company (Areva) and a raft of state-supported subsidies worth tens of billions?

At that time Osborne said at the fifth UK-China Economic Financial Dialogue  on 15 October 2013 ( which followed a visit to China the previous month by then energy secretary Ed Davey to smooth the way)  (https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/uk-china-economic-financial-dialogue-chancellors-statement%20):

 Britain and China are partners in growth. In the agreements we have made today and the other deals I am announcing this week, we are showing how Britain and China are taking the next big step in our relationship.  It means more trade, more investment and more jobs. More jobs in Britain. More jobs in China. And from services to science, from infratrastructure to innovation, we are working together and creating ties between our countries. We embrace these opportunities on the basis of shared interests, greater understanding and mutual respect.  That has been my approach to today’s dialogue and to the whole of my trip this week.”

Two academics at the Science Policy Research Unit(SRU) at the University of Sussex, Professor Andy  Stirling and Dr Philip Johnstone, argue in a recent article  in academic blog site, The Conversation (All at sea: making sense of the UK’s muddled nuclear policy (https://theconversation.com/all-at-sea-making-sense-of-the-uks-muddled-nuclear-policy-48553), that perhaps this very odd and ideologically perverse nuclear partnership can be explained  using the concept of the “deep state”, insisting: “now is the moment to ask some searching questions about what nuclear policy is doing to British politics.”

A one-time senior British diplomat, Carne Ross - who was the British expert on Iraq at the UN from 1997 to 2002 – developed the idea of the ”deep state” in trying to explain how the Iraq invasion plans could have been covered up (“Is there a UK ‘deep state’?” Anthony Barnett, Open Democracy, 26 July 2010; https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/is-there-uk-deep-state

What is striking about nuclear power development – especially in countries also possessing nuclear weapons-  is how similar it has been in all major countries, whether the dominant economic structure is capitalist (US), corporatist (UK and France), State Capitalist/communist or Soviet Union (State Communist (now capitalist). The institutional arrangements and secrecy surrounding the development has mirrored each other across all five states.

In their seminal study The Nuclear Barons, published in 1981, journalist Peter Pringle and political advisor and lawyer James Spigelman, demonstrate how across the political divide “the atom offered each country’s decision makers many opportunities to indulge a yearning for power, relish a sense of achievement proclaim a vision for the future …with decisions often frequently distorted by personal ambition and institutional self–interest.”

They went on “As the nuclear revolution expanded, the advocates built special institutions to keep the atom apart from the checks and balances of the normal political process…the atomic institutions became almost totalitarian in their powers often requiring scientists and engineers to suppress information that stood in the way of the nuclear revolution.”


Thus the US created the domineering Atomic Energy Commission (now the Department of Energy), the Soviet Union had the meaningless Ministry of Medium-Sized Machines  (now Rosatom), the UK created its Atomic Energy Authority, France its own Atomic Energy Commission (Commissariat a L’Energie Atomique) out of which Areva and EDF grew; and China Started with Non Ferrous and Rare Metals Company, it developed post war with Soviet Union, and added the Institute of Atomic Energy a few years later: all had primary military nuclear functions, out of which civilian nuclear  research, design and development  grew.

Last week The Times highlighted alleged UK security service concerns over the security implications of doing nuclear deals with China (“Nuclear deal with China is threat to UK security, 16 October, www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article4587446.ece#tab-5)

Indeed, the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) boasts on its website that it “successfully developed the atomic bomb, hydrogen bomb and nuclear submarines”. http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/business/Industry/article1620628.ece

Moreover, Professor of International Development at theUniversity of Bristol, Jeffrey Henderson, wrote in The Conversation, on 5 October, (“Serious issues for George Osborne on China’s role in the UK’s nuclear future”)

“One of the companies involved at Hinkley Point – China National Nuclear – produces China’s nuclear weapons. This means that as well as the Communist Party, CNNC is almost certainly controlled by the People’s Liberation Army (as all Chinese military-related companies are). Given geopolitical uncertainty (with rising tensions between China, Japan and the US over China’s territorial claims in the East and South China Seas), allowing such a company anywhere near Britain – not to mention in an industry as strategic as power generation – verges on the insane. Has MI5 been consulted on this, and if it has, what was its advice?”

However, junior Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire sought to allay security  fears in a written Parliamentary answer to Labour backbencher Paul Flynn in a reply last Friday (16 October) stating: “Security in the civil nuclear industry is of paramount importance to the Government. The UK has in place, robust security regulations which are enforced by an independent regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation. These regulations cover sensitive nuclear information as well as holdings of nuclear material and nuclear sites. The Government keeps the regulatory framework for security in the civil nuclear industry under continuous review. The Government welcomes Chinese investment to the UK, including in the nuclear energy sector.)


What he the omitted to mention is the chief nuclear security and safety inspector, Dr Andy Hall, has just abruptly resigned. (http://news.onr.org.uk/2015/09/retirement-of-dr-andy-hall/)


In an interview with China Daily published today to mark his visit to Britain  (“China and UK poised to sign agreements worth billions of pounds” 19 October,  http://chinadaily.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx)  President Xi praised Britain’s “visionary and strategic choice” to become China’s best friend in the West. He added “China is ready to pursue cooperation of various forms with the UK and other countries in international production capacity and equipment manufacturing to synergize respective strengths…  There should be no swing doors or glass doors that are placed as non-economic or non-market­ based barriers,” in an oblique reference to criticisms of Chinese human rights.

Osborne seems determined not to let the niceties of human rights get in the way of his new ‘Golden Age’ grand project.

In China last month he announced £2bn of new government guarantees for the new Hinkley C  project – with UK  taxpayers now  also liable  for around two thirds of the total project cost. With the vast majority of investors put off by the risks associated with the project, critics of the scheme have argued that desperation rather than long-term planning has driven the generous terms delivered to China by the UK.

In his deal struck at last month’s 7th UK-China Economic Financial Dialogue, Osborne concluded the following detail:

22. In the important field of nuclear energy: Both sides welcome the strengthening of the partnership in civil nuclear energy since the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on civil nuclear energy cooperation dated October 2013. The UK side warmly welcomes and supports Chinese investment and participation in the Hinkley Point C project and progressive involvement in the UK nuclear new-build market, including leading the development of other U. nuclear site(s) as fast as practicable, and supports the deployment of Chinese nuclear reactor technology, subject to meeting the requirements of the UK’s independent regulators. The China National Energy Administration and the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change agreed to enhance communication with each other with a view to facilitate the enterprises of both sides to explore cooperative opportunities in China, UK and other third countries, and to assist Chinese investors with understanding UK requirements and coordinating on regulatory, legal and electricity market issues, flowing from investment in UK new nuclear build.


23. The UK and China welcomed the extensive collaboration carried out across the nuclear fuel cycle, including in decommissioning, nuclear fuel transportation, and waste management under the MOU on Enhancing Cooperation in the Field of Civil Nuclear Industry Fuel Cycle Supply signed in June 2014. CAEA and DECC will continue to strengthen coordination to support relevant enterprises to secure more tangible results from cooperation in this area and looked forward to the signing of further commercial agreements/contracts. Both sides agreed to explore further the potential synergies between the UK’s Northern Powerhouse and China’s the Belt and Road Initiative, recognising the significant regional clusters of nuclear expertise established in British and Chinese regions, and welcomed the development of deeper regional ties between the UK and China in nuclear industry. China and the UK both welcomed the the first regional agreement between Sichuan Province and Cumbria, bringing together the UK’s Centre of Nuclear Excellence to deepening commercial links with China’s National Nuclear Corporation’s established cluster of expertise in Sichuan.


24. The UK and China note previous agreements signed between respective research institutes in the field of nuclear scientific research and intend jointly to establish a new research and innovation centre for nuclear. Both sides will engage further to agree details of the programmes for the centre which will carry out joint research in areas of shared interest with academia and industry.



But the Department of Energy and Climate Change is reticent to explain just how these deals will work out in practice, with minister for nuclear issues, Andrea Leadsom,  giving the same vague composite answer on 16 October to three probing questions asked last week by Mr Flynn, stating:


The Joint Research and Innovation Centre (JRIC) is envisaged to be the subject of a commercial agreement between the National Nuclear Laboratory and the Chinese National Nuclear Corporation.

These two organisations are still in the process of negotiating such an agreement and will need to consider details on the structures, funding, governance and accountability of the JRIC. As such, it is too early for Government to be able to comment on the outcomes of such a negotiation.

We continue to maintain an interest in developments of these discussions and will work, where appropriate, with our counterparts in the Chinese government to ensure that outcomes are mutually beneficial to the research landscape of both nations.

Not all are convinced. The Financial Times reported on Monday that  “The plans to open critical UK infrastructure assets up to the Chinese drew private criticism from western diplomats based in Beijing, who criticised Downing Street for “doing an Osborne”: a reference to the chancellor’s five-day warm-up tour of China last month when he said the UK should “run to China”.

It added: “According to several of the diplomats, the regular encrypted cables sent back to European and North American capitals over recent weeks have been filled with snide remarks and criticisms of the UK’s kowtowing in the run-up to Mr Xi’s state visit.
(“Diplomats accuse Britain of ‘kowtowing’ to secure Hinkley backing,” 19 October, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/367e6f6a-7583-11e5-933d-efcdc3c11c89.html#axzz3ow07joLq)

In an interview with China Central Television on Friday, David Cameron dismissed doubts, asserting:  “We see no conflict with having that very special relationship (with the United States), with wanting to be a strong partner for China as the Chinese economy continues to grow and China emerges as an enormous world power.”

Britain this week may have to decide whether its new best friend is worth it.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Nuclear's common military history in UK and China‏

Letter sent to The Times, 19 Oct

Your energy editor’s report on a prospective new era of nuclear power production in the UK recalls the special role of the Calder Hall reactors at Sellafield in Cumbria in Britain’s atomic history.("We're paying a high price for dropping the baton on nuclear power," Oct 19)
The article refers readers to the  opening by Her Majesty, the young Queen Elizabeth, of  Calder Hall on 17 October 1956 ( although it was first connected to the grid on
27 August 1956) . ( http://www.nce.co.uk/letters-exposing-the-truth-of-calder-halls-military-significance/5215257.article).
As some one who wrote a PHD thesis on the UK nuclear reactor design decisions from the early 1950s to the decision in 1979 to switch to an American reactor design (‘Nuclear Powers,’ Open University, 1987), may I draw readers attention to  The Times leading article on Calder Hall (‘The First Nuclear Station’, Leader, 17 October 1956).
This leader interestingly described Calder Hall as the "first full scale "nuclear plant, not, as most other news outlets of the day wrongly described the installation as, the world’s first "civil" nuclear power plant, as your energy editor erroneously does in his contemporary article. In identifying it as a "project of high priority," the leader rightly pointed out: "As well as the generation of electricity, it serves a military purpose – the production of plutonium."
Indeed, this is how Calder Hall was described in the official book, ‘Calder Hall’ published in October 1956 by the UK Atomic Energy Authority, written by Kenneth Jay, then a senior staff member at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell.

With China's President  about to join Chinese and UK nuclear industries together this week in a commercial co-operation agreement, it should not be overlooked that the main Chinese company, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC),  that will partner the British nuclear industry  in their joint atomic adventure, proudly promotes on its web site that it “successfully developed the atomic bomb, hydrogen bomb and nuclear submarines”.
( http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/business/Industry/article1620628.ece)

Saturday, 17 October 2015

China should not be allowed to test its nuclear power plant designs at cost of British safety

Your economics editor  Ben Chu wrote in his Comment welcoming the forthcoming energy and industrial partnerships with China that "China is interested in investing in UK nuclear  because it offers a opportunity to test out a China-designed power station." ("Why we should hold out a friendly hand to China," Independent 17 October, http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/why-we-should-hold-out-a-friendly-hand-to-china-a6697351.html)
That is the very reason it should be strongly opposed.
Just before  George Osborne visited Beijing In October 2013 to discuss nuclear financing, the South China Morning Post (7 Oct. 2013) revealed that Chinese nuclear industry veteran Li Yulun,  a former vice-president of CNNC had claimed that company and its United States technology partner Westinghouse should be more transparent about how mainland reactors would be built according to the most advanced safety standards, arguing "Our state leaders have put a high priority on [nuclear safety] but companies executing projects do not seem to have the same level of understanding." 

Worse still, last year the French Nuclear Safety Authority, (L'Autorité de sûreté nucléaire, ASN) complained publicly about the lack of communication with their Chinese counterparts over joint venture  nuclear reactor projects.

We know the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and DECC ministers all deem China excellent partners to develop new nuclear in the UK. But not all departments have such sanguine assessments of China’s Political governance. Here is part of what the latest Foreign Office annual human rights report, released in March this year, says of China, in its section ‘countries of concern’:
 Of principal concern were detentions of human rights defenders (HRDs) for the peaceful expression of their views. These continued as part of an ongoing clampdown on freedom of expression, association and assembly. There were particular spikes in detentions, including in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the clearance of the Tiananmen Square protests; and the Hong Kong protest movements, which began in September. Suppression of ethnic unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang also continued…. it is believed that China executes the largest number of people in the world. It retains 55 capital offences, including for non-violent and economic crimes.”

A good time to make sure China realises we are not  "kowtowing" to China's atomic ambitions would be this week when China's President Xi visits London.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Nuclear nuances over China atomic deal

This letter was sent to the Guardian on 16 October
Your political editor reports that “No 10 will be desperate the Labour leader does not offend the Chinese or jeopardise Chinese investment in UK nuclear plants” when China’s President Xi visits London next week. (“Britain warned not to offend President Xi,” 16 October)

That is exactly what  Mr Corbyn should be doing, because the proposed Chinese support for new nuclear build in the UK contains three unacceptable dangers.

When David Cameron met his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, in London in June 2014 (following his own visit to China the previous autumn), a key passage in the leaders’ agreement read:

“The UK Government welcomes investment and participation from Chinese companies in the Hinkley Point C project and progressive involvement more generally in the UK’s new build nuclear energy programme. This could include leading the development of other nuclear power station site(s) in the UK and the potential deployment of Chinese reactor technology in the UK, subject to meeting the stringent requirements of the UK’s independent nuclear regulators.”

Earlier this month, the chief nuclear safety and security inspector, Dr Andy Hall, resigned  his post just two years after taking over from the last head of the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), Dr Mike Weightman, who also resigned. Both left for personal reasons.


The current relations between ONR and French-state owned EDF Energy the proposed builders of the new Hinkley C nuclear plant deteriorated over the summer when ONR issued a statement asserting ONR had “taken the decision to suspend the production of future inspection reports until after NNB GenCo (EDF’s UK production company) has made its Final Investment Decision and is ready to remobilise the project,” ("EDF Energy mothballs planned Hinkley C nuclear power site," ClickGreen, 20 August,  

It is essential ONR is robust in its regulatory role.


Secondly, reports from China suggest the safety of new Chinese reactors, a version of which they want to build at Sizewell and Bradwell, both very close to greater London,  is under challenge from Chinese nuclear safety experts.


For example, atomic industry veteran Li Yulun said in October 2013 of  the Chinese nuclear plant's developer, China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), of which he isa former vice-president, "Our state leaders have put a high priority on [nuclear safety] but companies executing projects do not seem to have the same level of understanding." ("China nuclear plant delay raises safety concern," South China Morning Post, 7 Oct.2013, http://www.scmp.com/business/china-business/article/1325973/china-nuclear-plant-delay-raises-safety-concern)

Thirdly, does it really make sense to try to enhance our energy security - as ministers claim they are committed to doing  -  by handing over a significant portion of or power generation to the French State nuclear company, the Chinese State Investment Bank and  CNNC.

Whether or not the Chinese have any industrial espionage intentions, as security service sources have recently briefed the media, surely abrogating the responsibility for energy infrastructure to foreign interests undermines national security control.( “Nuclear deal with China is threat to UK security,“ The Times, 16 October 2015, www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article4587446.ece#tab-5)


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Shocked at British Legion acceptance of atomic bomb maker's sponsorship‏

I was truly shocked to see in the advertisement the liberal-oriented Independent newspaper on 7 October that the Royal British Legion Young Professionals Branch has taken sponsorship by the US giant military contractor Lockheed Martin for its “Poppy Rocks Ball” on 24 October.

The Young Professionals Branch and its activities are aimed at 18 to 40 year olds but membership is open to everyone, the RBL web site stresses.

The Poppy Rocks Ball is described thus:

On the 24 October, The Royal British Legion Young Professionals Branch is holding The Poppy Rocks Ball at the prestigious Honourable Artillery Company in the City of London. The Poppy Rocks Ball is a dinner, dance and auction for 320 people to raise funds and awareness of the charity. 

The Poppy Rocks Ball starts with a drinks reception at 7pm and carriages at 1.30am. Dress code is ‘Black Tie with a Poppy’. Mess dress and service uniform is also encouraged. 

The British Legion does commendable work looking after the welfare of our brave service people and medical auxiliaries who suffer physical and  mental trauma serving the nation.

Indeed, for many years they were the only body prepared to assist those veterans  suffering  from  hugely disabling from Gulf War Syndome, while ministers equivocated or denied its existence.( Gulf War: a legacy of suspicion, May 2007, http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/media/2278/gulf_war.pdf)

In my view it is totally inappropriate to accept sponsorship from a foreign company whose activities in Britain include being one of three contractors running the atomic warhead production factory at Aldermaston (“Decision delayed on running of troubled atomic weapons sites,” Independent, 21 September”

If ever used - as the prime minister has just this week pledged he would be prepared to do - it would result in the instant death of hundreds of thousands, and slow deaths of millions from radiation sickness and starvation.

Just what are the British Legion thinking?

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Tories’ Janus-like policy on nuclear WMDs


David Cameron told the Conservative Party conference in his set-piece leader's speech today

“My first duty as Prime Minister is to keep people safe. Our belief in strong defence and sound  money. ..In government, I have a team who keep us safe at home and abroad……Justine Greening, Michael Fallon, Philip Hammond and Theresa May. and because our independent nuclear deterrent is our ultimate insurance policy – this Government will order four new trident submarines.”

Tim Shipman, political editor of the Sunday Times, instantly tweeted “This may be the easiest speech any leader has made in 50 years. Standing ovations for supporting nuclear deterrence…”

The prime minister’s pro-Trident comments followed the equally robust backing given to nuclear weapons by defence secretary Michael Fallon, who made a typical red-meat rant to the swivel-eyed Tory faithful “representatives” on Sunday  (4 October) in Manchester


Having played the Tories-are-the true-patriots card for starters, he turned to Labour’s equivocation over Trident (leader against; most MPs for), highlighting:


“Efficiency savings mean we will be able to spend more on cyber, more on unmanned aircraft, more on the latest technology, keeping ahead of our adversaries. Labour’s approach couldn’t be more different – or more dangerous. How did they respond to their election defeat? By electing a leader who would weaken our national security – who would scrap Trident, leave NATO, and can’t think of circumstances in which he would use our Armed Forces. This is no time for Britain to retreat from the world, to let terror triumph, or to put our people in peril.”

And added:

“The biggest investment decision this Parliament will have to take is to replace the ballistic missile submarines that provide our nuclear deterrent.          

For 46 years our deterrent has been deployed every hour of every day. Anyone thinking of ending this unbroken patrol has to be absolutely certain that no nuclear threats will emerge in the 2030s, 2040s and 2050s. I’m not prepared to take that gamble so we will ask MPs of all parties to put national security first and support building four new ballistic missile submarines.


And we won’t let any coalition of left-wing Labour MPs and the SNP stop us.”


More emolliently,  foreign secretary Philip Hammond's said in his own speech to Conservative conference also on Sunday:

“We now have a Labour Party which poses a serious risk to our national security…while we are renewing Britain’s nuclear deterrent, he wants to scrap it…Standing up to Russia because our security depends on upholding international law and punishing those who breach it.” (https://www.politicshome.com/foreign-and-defence/articles/news/philip-hammonds-speech-conservative-conference)

Indeed, on Sunday morning’s Marr programme on BBC 1, Mr Cameron told viewers If you ... believe like me that Britain should keep the ultimate insurance policy of an independent nuclear deterrent, you have to accept there are circumstances in which its use would be justified.” Cameron observed “If you give any other answer then you are, frankly, undermining our national security, undermining our deterrent.”

Cameron’s statement followed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s unequivocal pledge he would not use nuclear weapons: “I don’t think we should be spending £100bn on renewing Trident. That is a quarter of our defence budget,” he sensibly said, adding in his interview  last week on the BBC radio four Today Programme“, 187 countries don't feel the need to have a nuclear weapon to protect their security, why should those five need it themselves? We are not in the era of the Cold War any more."

He stressed: "I am opposed to the use of nuclear weapons, I am opposed to the holding of nuclear weapons. I want to see a nuclear-free world. I believe it is possible."

But the British public  would never understand from these apparently diametrically opposite views that Corbyn and Cameron – and his defence and foreign secretaries -  actually agree on the importance of nuclear disarmament.

Eight months ago, Mr Hammond foreign office mandarins hosted a two day high-level meeting at its London conference venue, Lancaster House, of senior diplomatic representatives of the other four members of the self-appointed nuclear weapons club on the United Nations Security Council, the so-called Permanent Five (P5).

This brought to London Wang Qun, Director General, Department of Arms Control and Disarmament for China; Hélène Duchêne, Director for Strategic Affairs for France; Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security for the United States; and Grigory Berdennikov, Ambassador-at-Large for Russia, to meet with the FCO’s top disarmament diplomat, Peter Jones, Director for Defence and International Security.

Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood told MPs at the time:: “The London P5 Conference covered a wide range of issues relevant to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, encompassing disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”

After their meeting on 6 February the P5 diplomats issued a joint statement through the Foreign Office (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/joint-statement-from-the-nuclear-weapon-states-at-the-london-p5-conference), stressing, in a very interesting passage, considering it is co-signed by Russia:   “At their 2015 Conference the P5 restated their belief that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty remains the essential cornerstone for the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, and is an essential contribution to international security and stability.”

It then added: “The P5 reaffirmed that a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament that promotes international stability, peace and undiminished and increased security for all remains the only realistic and practical route to achieving a world without nuclear weapons.”

Barely weeks before, Mr Fallon had told MPs in a Parliamentary debate on Trident: “we also share the vision of a world that is without nuclear weapons, achieved through multilateral disarmament.”

You would scarcely believe it from the red-blooded rants at the Tory conference this week