13 February 2007: for immediate release
The government is resorting to increasingly desperate tactics to win over its own backbenchers, as criticism of its Trident replacement plans grows.
The leadership is concerned that it has not won the argument within the Labour Party, and will have to rely on whipping enough MPs to vote with the Conservatives in order to win a parliamentary vote. On Thursday 8th February, Kali Mountford MP, the PPS to the Defence Secretary Des Browne, invited all Labour MPs to visit Faslane naval base and sail on a Vanguard (Trident) submarine on Saturday 24th February. On the same day, tens of thousands of people, including Labour Party members, will be marching through London and Glasgow on co-ordinated ‘NO TRIDENT’ demonstrations.
In Parliament, as many as 74 Labour MPs have now called on the government to delay a debate to allow for greater consultation.(1)
The party leadership threw out resolutions seeking to make the decision-making process more accountable to the party membership at the 30th January National Executive Committee meeting. At the 3rd February National Policy Forum, no vote was held despite a plenary where results of two initial polls of party members showed a majority against a replacement.(2)
This follows the decision to rule out of order all resolutions on Trident at the party conference last September.(3)
Jeremy Corbyn MP for Islington North and Chair of Parliamentary CND said: “Arguments against replacing Trident are so obvious on grounds of morality, sense, security and money that it makes the increasingly desperate attempts by the pro-arms lobby look more like scaremongering than an intention to engage in rational debate.”
Fabian Hamilton MP for Leeds North East, who has visited Faslane Naval Base, said: “My visit to Faslane in early January was a great education. Until then I had no idea exactly how Britain’s Independent Nuclear Deterrent actually worked but whilst there I and my colleagues saw first hand the Vanguard submarine and all the staggering array of control systems. We also gained a valuable insight into the operations of the submarines. Seeing the submarines at first hand and the base itself, and beginning to understand just how it all worked has made me more determined to vote against the renewal of the submarine-based delivery system which costs us all so much money. This vast amount of cash could be far better used not just by the Royal Navy but also by other parts of the public service. I still cannot see how this Independent Nuclear Deterrent would make any of us safer from any outside threats to our people. It is clear that the government believes that Labour MPs visiting Faslane just before any vote in the Commons on the renewal of the Vanguard class submarines will persuade doubters to support the design and building of a new delivery system for Trident. In my case, it has not.”
Katy Clark MP for Ayrshire North and Arran said: “I would like to have gone to see at first hand what goes on in the base. Instead I will be on the streets of Glasgow. Along with thousands of others, I’ll be protesting against billions of pounds of our money being wasted on a more sophisticated nuclear weapons system to be based in Scotland”
Kate Hudson, Chair of CND said: “No amount of day trips can obscure the fact that all evidence suggests the majority of Labour Party members oppose Trident. The refusal of the Labour leadership to allow a vote or genuine debate in the Party indicates they are aware of this reality. Rather than looking at expensive weapons of mass destruction on 24th February, MPs would do better to come to the demonstrations in London or Glasgow, to appreciate the scale of popular opposition.”
CND, the Stop the War Coalition, and the British Muslim Initiative are organising a national demonstration in London on Saturday 24th February, calling for ‘No Trident’ and ‘Troops Home from Iraq.’ It is expected to be Britain’s largest anti-nuclear demonstration in decades.
Notes to Editor:
1. As well as 71 Labour MPs on EDM 579, three others have only signed EDM 798.
2. NEC members Peter Wheeler and Ellie Reeves announced that of 201 party members consulted, 114 opposed a replacement and 87 were in favour. Having consulted CLP secretaries in London, NPF representative Alon Or-bach announced that of 41 responses, 31 opposed a replacement and 7 were in favour.
3. The National Policy Forum report to Labour Party Conference 2006 stated, ‘The question of the replacement for the Trident system is one of central importance to our future defence and security requirements and we have said that there should be a full debate on the issue.’ Under Labour Party rule 3C2.3, this NPF statement was used as the reason to actually rule out of order up to seventeen constituency resolutions on the replacement of Trident, preventing any debate on the topic by conference delegates.
4. For further information and interviews please contact Rick Wayman, CND’s Press & Communications Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859
5 . According to a July 2006 ICM poll, 59% of the British public opposes a replacement of Trident when presented with a cost of at least £25 billion. Click here for a full copy of the poll.
6 . An ICM poll from June 2006 showed that 81% of the British public believes that any decision on Trident replacement should be made by Parliament, not the Prime Minister alone. Click here for a full copy of the poll.
7. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere.