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

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


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.