Fifty-one years ago the UK Labour government led the world in pressing for global nuclear disarmament, after several years’ negotiating at the United Nations.
On 18 January 1968, Fred Mulley MP, the then Labour Minister of State for Disarmament at the Foreign Office, told the 358th Plenary meeting of the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC) - the forerunner to the present day UN Committee on Disarmament (CD) - in respect of the then proposed Article 6 on nuclear disarmament of the nascent nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT):
“My own Government have consistently held that the [Nuclear Nonproliferation] Treaty should and must lead to such [nuclear ] disarmament.” (emphasis added).
He added:” If it is fair to describe the danger of proliferation as an obstacle to disarmament, it is equally fair to say that without some progress in disarmament, the NPT will not last….As I have made clear in previous speeches my Government accepts the obligation to participate fully in the negotiations required by Article 6 and it is our desire that these negotiations should begin as soon as possible (emphasis added) and should produce speedy and successful results. There is no excuse now for allowing a long delay to follow the signing of this Treaty
Late last month, the UK presented the preparatory committee in New York for the NPT review conference in 2020 with an extraordinary self-serving draft so-called “compliance document,” replete with errors of omission, commission and downright hypocritical distortion (“National Report Pursuant to Actions 5, 20, and 21 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) 2010 Review Conference Final Document; Report submitted by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland https://undocs.org/NPT/CONF.2020/PC.III/7)
The document states boldly in its first paragraph:” The report outlines our commitment to achieving our long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons by highlighting our efforts on disarmament, verification and safeguards.(emphasis added)
Yet on Monday, at her first defence question time, new defence secretary Penny Mordaunt told a Tory MP cheerleading for Trident nuclear WMD: “the UK’s continuous at-sea deterrence posture will remain essential to the UK’s security". (Hansard, 20 May 2019) (https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2019-05-20/debates/54D0534B-EE24-4E2D-9FC7-BC819C00A5AF/TopicalQuestions)
Extraordinarily, Jeremy Corbyn’s own shadow defence secretary, Nia Griffith, agrees with Mordant, as she backs Trident replacement. She should be promising to implement Labour’s innovative nuclear disarmament policy from fifty years ago. Why doesn’t she?