Cutting Trident ‘essential to credibility’

Labour CND’s ‘Cutting Trident’ meeting in Parliament on 4th December saw the overwhelming case made for Labour to pledge its opposition to replacing the Trident nuclear weapon system at the next General Election and urged the party to open up to the debate in the coming months.

Addressing the meeting first was Nick Brown, former Chief Whip to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said, ‘Labour can’t sit back and watch Coalition disagree on Trident – we need our own debate and clear position’. He argued that rather than waiting for reviews by other parties, Labour needs to debate Trident as soon as possible, including at the conference in 2013, then get out and explain it on the doors. He made clear his long-standing concerns about Trident had become outright opposition in the changed circumstances from when it was first commissioned.

His key argument against replacement were the changed security circumstances, when Trident was conceived as a weapon to ‘flatten Moscow’ whereas the latest National Security Strategy made clear that the likelihood of state-on-state conflict was low and decreasing. But the economic circumstances compound the security case against Trident, and in particular the cuts to education that threaten the futures of young people today, should be reversed by transferring the funds allocated to Trident to lowering university fees.

Clive Lewis, Labour’s candidate seeking to retake Charles Clarke’s old seat of Norwich South from the Lib Dems, spoke next and drew on his experience serving with the Territorial Army in Afghanistan in emphasising the security case against Trident replacement. In particular he said there was a strong military case with ‘conventional forces being hollowed out’ and listed the growing number of former senior officers who have condemned the allocation of funds to the submarine programme while conventional equipment ages. In his words, he said ‘I’d rather have more Chinooks than Trident’.

Katy Clark MP arrived fresh from voting against the Public Sector Pensions Bill and attacked the Tories for their public sector spending and welfare cuts while maintaining projects like Trident. She said the Labour Party needed to decide how it deals with Trident replacement in light of the attacks on living standards for ordinary voters and that, in that context, scrapping nuclear weapons would not be an electoral problem for the party. Addressing also the issue of Scottish independence, she said many in the Scottish Labour Party wanted to see Trident scrapped altogether, not just moved south, which was the risk of a yes vote in the Scottish separation referendum.

‘If Ed Miliband can be brave taking on Murdoch, he can be with Trident as well’, was National Policy Forum member Lucy Anderson’s view. On the party’s policy-making process, she said Labour should be talking to both the unions and employers about regional industrial strategies and the prospects for defence diversification. She said it was vital for Labour members to engage with the policy process, contributing directly to the Your Britain website – submitting proposals, voting on others and making comments – but also directly contacting NPF and NEC representatives.

There was wide agreement that the party should urgently debate Trident this year – a number of activists expressed doubt that the party would have such a debate at the conference before an election – so a conference debate and vote in September 2013 is vital. Nick Brown appealed to trade unions to use their influence to facilitate that debate at the conference.

And in rounding up, Walter Wolfgang from the floor said ‘the country is fed up with the Tories but not yet convinced Labour has a progressive alternative’ and that ‘cutting Trident is essential to Labour’s credibility drive ahead of the next election’.

 

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Labour cannot remain silent on Trident

By Tom King

Labour’s policy review, much needed after 13 years in Government and a drubbing in May 2010, was said to have started from a blank page and would review all our commitments across the board. All, it seems, except Trident.

There has been some positive movement, the Britain in the World policy document stated there will be a discussion about Trident –

but only once the Lib Dem alternatives review has been completed. The fact that Ed Miliband welcomed the review is in itself an important step in itself. But why should Labour let the Liberal Democrats lead this debate?

At a grassroots level, this discussion is already being had. While the National Policy Forum proposal for a debate at some point in the future was presented to conference, MPs, MSPs, AMs, councillors and activists packed out the CND fringe in Manchester.

Neil Findlay MSP said spending £100 billion on renewing Trident would be “economically incompetent” and Katy Clark MP a

nd Julie Morgan AM both agreed that nuclear disarmament would be an electorally popular policy for Labour.

With the Government now pledging to spend £350 million on the next stage of Trident renewal, whilst cutting benefits from the disabled and slashing vital public services, its clear just how little economic sense nuclear weapons make. It also demonstrates that the Tories are determined to plough ahead with renewing our nuclear arsenal, regardless of Lib Dem opposition.

Labour’s lack of response to the latest announcement is remarkable and, in Scotland, the SNP are already atta

cking Johann Lamont for failing to respond when Trident’s submarines are based in Faslane.

Lamont has previously stated her opposition to Trident; saying in 1999 that she would support a motion calling for the weapons system to be decommissioned. If the party is truly to renew under Ed’s leadership then, Lamont should, as leader of Scottish Labour, be able to restate her belief in nuclear disarmament and show she’s in touch with public opinion.

The party cannot remain silent on Trident.

When even Tony Blair now admits that Trident is of no use as a strategic deterrent and itssignificance is purely political, surely Ed can admit its time to ditch this cold war relic.

If the Labour leadership are serious when they talk of making tough econom
The ‘Promise of Britain’ is not to deliver a future for the next generation where security is based on mutually assured destruction, it is about providing a society in which everyone has a fair chance to get on. Ed Miliband must be frank and say, in the words of the former chief whip Nick Brown, “we don’t need Trident and we can’t afford it”.ic choices in the next Parliament, there’s no way they could then go on to spend £100 billion on weapons of mass destruction that could kill millions.Scrapping Trident will send a bold signal to the world that the nuclear age needs to be put behind us and, as Nick Brown advocates, would allow the next Labour government to deliver a tuition fee cut that would re-open the doors to higher education for ordinary working class young people.

Nick Brown: No to Trident renewal

At the next General Election every Parliamentary candidate will be asked which way they are going to vote on Trident renewal. This is essentially the same question that was asked of Parliamentary candidates in 1983.

The issue is not should Britain continue with an existing strategic deterrent. The issue is should Britain commit the resources for a new generation of platforms and weapon systems. The answer should be no.

The changing nature of military threats to the UK needs to be responded to. That response should place defence in the context of Britain’s broader diplomatic stance and military alliances. It should also place Trident renewal firmly in the context of present public spending priorities.

The Coalition Government is pulling apart public services and is raising taxes on those who can least afford to pay them. If Labour is to put forward a coherent economic alternative we have to take a good look at all areas of public spending. In these circumstances it’s hard to see a case for renewing our nuclear deterrent. In what crisis could Britain conceivably use an independent strategic deterrent? And against who? The real nuclear dangers to Britain come from rogue states and terrorism. The possession of an independent nuclear deterrent of our own doesn’t make us safer. A better investment would be antiterrorism capabilities.

The Government projects a total cost for Trident renewal of up to £25bn, though CND believe that the lifetime cost could come in as much as four times that figure.

The Liberal Democrats’ move to postpone a final decision until after the next election has already added an extra £1.5bn to the bill.

There are far more urgent demands on the public purse. To name just one, the Coalition have trebled the cap on tuition fees at Britain’s universities. This threatens to price out of higher education an entire generation of youngsters of less than ordinary means. If we are to reverse this decision, as Labour is committed to doing if possible, we will have to find the money to pay for it.

It is my view that excluding youngsters from higher education, starving public services more generally of necessary resources, poses a far bigger threat to the United Kingdom than the idea that a foreign power with nuclear weaponry would uniquely threaten to use them against us without the rest of NATO and be able to somehow disapply NATO’s founding terms.

 

Nick Brown is the MP for Newcastle East

Conference Resolutions and Fringe

Contemporary Resolutions

Scrapping Trident and ending foreign military interventions are the subjects of our two model contemporary resolutions to Labour Party Annual Conference this year.

 

It is time the Labour Party seriously debated Trident, a throwback to the Cold War which consumes enormous resources that would be better spent elsewhere and with no relevance to the UK’s security needs.

Similarly, after the Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya invasions, it is time the party discussed rejecting military interventions and focusing on real UK defence needs.

It is vital that Labour CND supporters ensure these debates are heard at Labour Party Conference.

  • Make sure your CLP discusses and submits one of these resolutions.
  • Make sure your delegate is present at any relevant Conference Arrangements Committee meeting before conference.
  • Make sure you promote the resolution to ensure it is prioritised for debate.

 

The deadline to submit motions is noon on 21 September 2012.

Please email info@labourcnd.org.uk and let us know if your CLP is submitting one of these or a similar motion.

____________________________________________________________________

Labour CND’s fringe meeting at Labour Party Conference

 

Join the debate on Trident the Labour Party needs to have. It is time the Party discussed Trident, a throwback to the Cold War which consumes enormous resources that would be better spent elsewhere and which has no relevance to the UK’s security needs.

Cut Trident: Not Jobs, Health and Education

6pm, Monday 1st October
Arora Hotel, Princess St, Manchester [map]

Nick Brown MP
Katy Clark MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Julie Morgan AM
Neil Findlay MSP
Christine Shawcroft, NEC
Kate Osamor

Refreshments provided

Email info@labourcnd.org.uk for more information.

Trident drains money from public services

In an article on LabourList, the Shadow Defence Minister Kevan Jones has adopted the mantra of ‘too far and too fast’ in relation to recently announced cuts to the Army.  He concluded his attack on government spending decisions by stating “recent decisions made by the Government will shape our ability to meet future strategic threats for years and years to come. But they have been made on the basis of making short-term savings over the next 12 to 18 months”.

Yet not all recent decisions within the Ministry of Defence have been made with on the basis of short-term savings.  Indeed, another Shadow Defence Minister wrote a piece on LabourList just a few weeks earlier, endorsing the government’s confirmation of £1 billion expenditure on Trident Replacement. And we already know that the Coalition plans to spend £4 billion on Trident replacement design before the decision on whether or not to replace it is taken in 2016 – and while Lib Dems research alternatives to a like-for-like replacement.

The two articles stand alone but looked at together there is a lack of joined up thinking in the defence team. The Treasury has decided the procurement costs of Trident replacement must come out of the Ministry of Defence’s budget, yet Trident was specifically excluded from the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), which directly led to the recently announced defence cuts.

Kevan Jones linked to Labour MP Dan Jarvis’s piece in The Guardian last week where he wrote “Does any sensible, independent military thinker believe this decision is based upon strategy? No, the only strategy is to pay down the deficit at all costs.”  Not quite at all costs though; the government is spending billions on Trident and its replacement despite huge cuts elsewhere in government including in the Ministry of Defence.

So what is Labour’s policy?  Well, at the most recent meeting of the National Policy Forum the differences of opinion in the party on Trident were acknowledged and there are signs of a more inclusive discussion.

Meanwhile Ed Balls has stated that the next Labour Government will have difficult spending choices to make and he has expressed the view that it cannot or will not reverse all of the cuts.  In that context, endorsing billions more for Trident while blogging the following week that the Government’s defence policy is only focused on short term cuts makes Labour’s defence team incoherent, not to mention inconsistent with Ed Ball’s cautious approach to public expenditure under a future Labour government.

What would be coherent is to implement the position of Ed Miliband during Labour’s leadership election – that Labour “should look at the totality of our conventional and nuclear capabilities, considering both our defence needs and what our priorities are in the changing economic climate.”  Labour’s defence team has failed to look at conventional and nuclear capabilities in totality.  They should – and correctly conclude that Trident is draining money away from other areas of government expenditure, whether in the Ministry of Defence or other vital public services.

 

By Daniel Blaney


Challenge to Labour front bench

The Commons was enlivened by a debate on Trident replacement once again on Monday afternoon as the Defence Secretary was called to the Commons to answer an Urgent Question on his new £1.1 billion contract – heavily trailed in the Sunday press – to redevelop the Rolls-Royce plant at Raynesway in Derby and to produce the reactor for the first of the submarines replacing Vanguard.

The idea of ordering a submarine reactor ahead of the main decision on constructing the rest of the submarine, at a cost of several hundred million pounds, is something I’ve repeatedly condemned in debates with the Defence Minister. As one part of the £4 billion declared ‘necessary’ to design the submarines before the construction decision, it is simply part of achieving a fait accompli so that a future government’s hands are tied. On the Today programme on Monday morning, the Lib Dem Defence Minister said it would be down to a future government to negotiate its way out of the contracts in 2016, but the Defence Secretary yesterday afternoon clearly said that Rolls-Royce depend of the commitment of the government.

One only needs to look at yesterday’s Evening Standard to see the arguments stating that ‘Trident is too costly to cancel’.

It was not made clear but it looks like we need to add another £500 million to the Trident replacement tab if these new facilities are necessary. The whole thing is a project which everyone expects to grow in cost exponentially, and yesterday illustrated that it is already doing so.

I was encouraged to see more Labour MPs questioning the government. Not only Paul Flynn and Michael Connarty but the questions from David Lammy, Nick Brown and Sheila Gilmore show there is a serious debate to be had in the Labour Party. Why should police numbers be cut to pay for Trident, rather than the other way round, as David asked.

But given this announcement arguably adds £500 million to the cost of delivering the replacement, it was disappointing that Labour’s front bench response gave such a wholehearted welcome of the ongoing programme, rather than offering serious scrutiny.

Alison Seabeck wrote that ‘keeping our nation safe’ should be ‘above partisan politics’. Indeed it should, but how we achieve that should be open to discussion, particularly in the Labour Party. Even the government’s own National Security Strategy said the threat of another state attacking with nuclear weapons is now of ‘low-likelihood’ but we are cutting all manner of other defence and public sector programmes and workers while saving Trident.

The reports from last weekend’s National Policy Forum sound very positive for the future and Jon Cruddas’s appointment as chair of the policy review is welcome given he joined me and many other MPs in demanding a debate on Trident at annual conference in 2006 ahead of the Commons vote and he has argued in favour of scrapping Trident to focus on forces welfare or conventional equipment, I hope we can now have an honest and mature debate about our defence spending priorities.

By Jeremy Corbyn MP

Originally published on LabourList on 19th June 2012

Our Refounding Labour submission

Our letter to Partnership into Power Review is attached here, and displayed below.

 

PiP Reform Consultation
c/o Policy and Research Unit
The Labour Party
39 Victoria Street
London
SW1H 0HA

 

Dear friends,

Please accept this letter as a submission to the extended Refounding Labour consultation from Labour CND – a caucus of Labour Party members who are also CND members.

That the consultation is taking place is welcome. We believe there has been a fundamental disconnect between the Labour Party leadership and its members acros the country in policy making. The leadership has not consulted or afforded members a sufficient role in deciding policy under the Partnership in Power process.

It is of concern that the two year policy review being led by Liam Byrne has failed to make use of the existing policy making structures of the Labour Party and exposes the need for a Refounding Labour process that provides greater accountability to, and empowers, the membership to play a greater role in deciding party policy.

For ourselves, a clear example of the failure to engage the membership, is the party’s lack of debate on UK nuclear weapon possession for many years, despite taking a decision in government to putrsue a new nuclear weapon system with a lifetime cost of £100 billion. This failure was made all the more stark by the methods used to prevent the subject being debated when it was clear members wished to do so, particularly at the 2006 Annual Conference.

Labour CND would therefore like to propose the four amendments to the existing policy making process overleaf to be considered collectively or individually.

Yours sincerely,

Joy Hurcombe, Chair
Walter Wolfgang, Vice-President
Submission to Refounding Labour – Partnership into Power Reform Consultation

Remove the ‘contemporary’ straitjacket
The ruling requiring resolutions to be ‘contemporary’, referring to events occurring after the final pre-conference National Policy Forum meeting should be removed. The ruling is vaguely written, providing members with little useful guidance, but us nonetheless an unfair straitjacket. That a subject has been discussed is no reason to prevent delegates at the annual conference debating and voting on an issue – to do so is undemocratic in the extreme.

The conference should debate eight prioritised resolutions
The rules currently allow for the constituency parties to prioritise four contemporary resolution subjects by ballot at conference, and for the affiliates to do the same. This should ensure eight subjects are debated, but the current practice means that subjects commonly prioritised by both sections mean fewer than eight subjects are put on the conference agenda. A simple solution would be to take four from the constituencies and four from the affiliates, or allow the sections to vote as a college and take the top eight agenda items.

Allow CLPs and affiliates to submit amendments to NPF documents
As the sovereign body of the party, the annual conference should be provided with a mechanism to amend the National Policy Forum’s policy commission documents. The documents should be published with sufficient time for constituencies to submit at least one amendment to the policy commission documents, to be debated at conference.

End the ‘take it or leave it’ vote on whole NPF documents
Each year when the NPF policy commission documents are debated at conference, an effective ‘take it or leave it’ single vote is held on a large document covering a huge range of issues. This requires conference delegates to vote for or against a whole document where they may agree with a significant proportion, but hold strong reservations on other areas. A mechanism that would allow delegates to identify a body of text in the document and hold a separate vote on that contentious item would ensure the policy documents more closely represent Labour members views.

 

Contemporary issues for Conference 2011

Suggested contemporary issues for Labour Party Conference 2011

Labour CND has drafted three contemporary issues, on Trident, Libya and Afghanistan which you are welcome to amend as necessary for your CLP.

Your CLP can submit one contemporary issue, of ten words, with a supporting statement of up to 250 words.

You must submit your contemporary issue by 12 noon on Friday 16th September.

If your CLP does submit a contemporary issue on one of these subjects, please do let us know by emailing info@labourcnd.org.uk.

 

SUGGESTED ISSUE 1:

Scrap Trident and its replacement, support a Nuclear Weapons Convention

We note the view of the Commons Defence Committee, in its report of 3rd August 2011, that the Strategic Defence and Security Review was ‘unfinished business’.

The Chair of the Committee, James Arbuthnot, stated that the review was ‘rushed and done without proper consultation’ whilst Labour Shadow Defence Secretary, Jim Murphy, said ‘The decisions made in the review now clearly need themselves to be reviewed.’

The Trident nuclear weapon system was excluded from consideration in the Strategic Defence and Security Review process, with its future guaranteed in the final report, yet the National Security Strategy confirms a nuclear weapon system does not address our real defence and security threats.

Conference believes that Trident should not be replaced and that the existing system should be scrapped.

The achievement of a global Nuclear Weapons Convention – banning all nuclear weapons – should become a major objective of an incoming Labour government’s foreign policy.

Supporting statement: 149 words

 

SUGGESTED ISSUE 2:

UK forces should withdraw from Afghanistan immediately and unconditionally

Conference regrets the tragic loss of life in the attack on the British Council in Kabul on 19th August on the 92nd anniversary of Afghan independence from the UK in 1919.

Conference further notes the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan July report which stated the 1462 conflict-related Afghan civilian deaths over the first six months of 2011 represented a 15% increase compared to the same period in 2010.

The number of UK troops killed since 2001 now stands at 379, including 32 this year.

The Commons Defence Committee estimated in July that the cost of UK military operations in Afghanistan was more than £18bn, according to Ministry of Defence figures.

Conference resolves that the UK should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan immediately and unconditionally and encourage the United States and NATO to do likewise.

Supporting statement: 134 words

 

SUGGESTED ISSUE 3:

Labour condemns UK military intervention in Libya’s civil war

The military intervention by NATO in Libya’s civil war has caused needless death and destruction.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has expressed deep concern at reports of unacceptably large number of civilian casualties. On 12th August he stated that there can be no military solution to the Libyan crisis and that ‘a ceasefire linked to a political process … is the only viable means to achieving peace and security in Libya.’ Amnesty International has called for an investigation into the deaths of 85 civilians following a NATO airstrike near Zlitan on Monday 10th August.

We are concerned at reports on 28th August from NATO sources that Britain may have deployed troops in Libya, contrary to government policy.

Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander has stated the UK ‘would not be entitled to a mandate to pursue armed regime change’ yet the UN resolution 1973 has been used to pursue the illegal objective of regime change.

The concerns at mission creep, expressed by many Labour MPs, have been well-founded, including Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy warning against an ‘escalation of the conflict’ as the UK announced new commitments of military resources.

Conference demands an end to NATO’s military intervention in Libya and UK participation in it.

We call for a lasting ceasefire and urge the UN to facilitate negotiations with all the people of Libya for a peaceful settlement to include reparations from NATO for civilian casualties.

Supporting statement: 237 words