2 August 2007: for immediate release

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today released a poll showing that a majority of the public feels that the siting of missiles and early warning bases in the UK and Europe as part of the US Missile Defence programme “increases the security threat faced by the UK and Europe”. Alongside this, 20 MPs released a statement calling for the matter to be fully debated and agreed on by Parliament – something promised by Tony Blair, but reneged upon by a MoD announcement last week, stating that the American communications base at Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire, is to be used in the system.

The YouGov poll revealed that 54% of the public agree (compared with 24% who disagree) that “the siting of US missiles and early warning bases in the UK, Poland and the Czech Republic as part of the US National Missile Defence programme, increases the security threat faced by the UK and Europe.” 22% did not know either way.

On the question of whether “the UK’s support and involvement in the US National Missile Defence programme, including the stationing of US radar and communications bases in Yorkshire should be decided by the UK Parliament” 68% agreed, with only 14% disagreeing. 18% did not know.

Also released today was a letter signed by 20 MPs describing how they are “greatly concerned by the Government’s announcement”, stating that “UK’s continued and increasing involvement in US missile defence potentially puts the UK on the frontline in future wars. It has already contributed towards increased tensions with Russia.” The cross-party group of MPs, including Phil Willis, MP for Harrogate, the nearest town to the Menwith Hill base, says that “any UK support for the programme should be fully debated and agreed by Parliament rather than by ministerial announcement”.

The Government announcement in a written ministerial statement on the eve of the Parliamentary recess came as a shock to many. Defence Secretary Des Browne had told MPs in April that “the UK has received no request from the US to use RAF Menwith Hill for missile-defence-related activities” . In February, the then PM Tony Blair had said that “I am sure that we will have the discussion in the house and, indeed, outside the house … When we have a proposition to put, we will come back and put it.”

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “The majority of the public believes that this unnecessary system puts us all at greater risk – so how can the system be described as a ‘defence’? MPs, supported by public opinion are rightly demanding the vote they were promised. But the Government has prevented any debate by sneaking this announcement out as a written statement on the last full Parliamentary day before October. This is craven behaviour designed to avoid genuine debate about Britain’s real security interests.”

She continued, “This system is already destabilising Europe and will allow the US to attack others without fear of retaliation. Gordon Brown must allow for thorough public and parliamentary debate before placing us in the front line for anyone wishing to attack the US.”

CND is organising a conference, “US Missile Defence: Towards a new Cold War?” on 1st September, with speakers from across Europe, including the Mayor of Trokavec, the Czech town where the US plans to locate its radar.