Monday, 1 March 2021
Needed: nuclear action not just words
Letter sent to The Guardian newspaper: You report that shadow defence secretary John Healey told defence think tank RUSI that Labour’s commitment to the UK’s nuclear weapons a is “non-negotiable”( “Labour backs deterrent and Nato - Healey”, 26 February 2021; www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/feb/25/labour-to-state-non-negotiable-support-for-uks-nuclear-weapons) he also asserted “we want to see Britain doing more to lead efforts to secure strategic arms limitation and multilateral disarmament.”( https://labour.org.uk/press/john-healey-speech-at-rusi-on-labours-core-principles-on-defence-and-security/) This would seem contradictory, as something cannot be both non- negotiable and negotiable in multilateral negotiations at once. Unless the non-negotiable refers to holding an unchangeable policy in respect of others in his own party who hold a different perspective, such as many of the signatories to the full page advert you carried don 27 February under the banner headline :Stop Trident.” But Labour’s record on putting British nuclear weapons into multilateral nuclear disarmament talks is also miserable. Under one of Mr Healey’s distant predecessors in a Labour government, the 190-odd nation multilateral nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) was agreed in 1968. Papers available in the National Archives in Kew show that earlier that year, on 23 January 1968, Fred (later Lord) Mulley, as the Labour Government's disarmament minister, addressed the plenary meeting of the UN Committee on Disarmament (UN CD) explaining why nations should sign up to the newly negotiated NPT, telling the ministerial delegations: ".. 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 ... There is no excuse now for allowing a long delay to follow the signing of this treaty." On 25 June 2007, Margaret Becket made a valedictory speech as Labour foreign Secretary at the annual Carnegie Endowment Non Proliferation conference in Washington DC, where she said “What we need is vision - a scenario for a world free of nuclear weapons,” adding” “For more than sixty years, good management and good fortune have meant that nuclear arsenals have not been used. But we cannot rely on history just to repeat itself.” US Secretary of State Blinken told the UNCD on 22 February: “President Biden has made it clear: the United States has a national security imperative and a moral responsibility to reduce and eventually eliminate the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction.”(https://geneva.usmission.gov/2021/02/22/secretary-blinken-cd/). We need multilateral action not just warm words.