When it comes to nuclear weapons, I share the views of every Labour Prime Minister since – and including – Clem Attlee: so long as other countries possess the nuclear deterrent, so should the United Kingdom.
Therefore I support the renewal of Trident. Five years ago I was re-elected as the MP for Glasgow South (on more than 50 per cent of the vote) standing explicitly on a pro-Trident manifesto.
I want to see a world free of nuclear weapons. That is why I am pleased that the Labour Party recognises the importance of Britain leading international efforts for multilateral nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The last Labour Government was the first Government of a nuclear power to call for an end to nuclear weapons while in office, leading directly to the establishment of the Global Zero campaign.
We believe the current Government could be doing more to progress this agenda. That is why Vernon Coaker MP and Douglas Alexander MP, our shadow defence and foreign secretaries, urged the Prime Minister to ensure the UK was represented at the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, in December. It is also why, if we are elected in May, we will ensure the UK is represented at the Non Proliferation Treaty Conference, where we will push for more action on reducing nuclear stockpiles.
Following the action we took when in government, the next Labour Government would actively work towards global multilateral disarmament, pushing for further reductions in global stockpiles and the number of weapons. This would be done in line with our assessment of the global security landscape. We would also continue to take a leading role internationally to push for global anti-proliferation with nuclear and non-nuclear states. This is a vision shared by President Barack Obama and Labour would work with the United States and other allies, such as France, to advance ‘Global Zero’, to determine an action plan for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.
The success of past international bans on weapons of mass destruction such as landmines, cluster munitions, chemical and biological weapons demonstrates how we can work to reduce them internationally. The Non-Proliferation Treaty Conference 2015 will be a key moment for a Labour Government to show leadership in achieving progress on global disarmament and anti-proliferation measures.
It is important to remember how much progress has already been made through multilateral negotiations. At its peak, the USA and Russia had over 60,000 nuclear warheads. That number stands at just over 16,000 and it is projected to fall to less than 8,000 by 2022. The UK’s nuclear weapons now represent around 1% of total global stockpiles. Multilateral negotiations are beginning to show concrete results.
The nature of the security threats facing Britain today differs from that of the threats we faced fifty years ago. From fragile and conflict-affected states, to natural disasters and humanitarian crises, to the increase of cyber warfare, it is clear that traditional military responses will not be sufficient to tackle the most salient security issues of the future. With other nations possessing nuclear weapons, and nuclear proliferation remaining a deep concern, we can never be absolutely certain as to what the future security landscape will look like. In July 2013 the current Government published its Trident Alternatives Review, which examined alternative defence systems and postures for the UK’s deterrent. Labour has said that we are committed to a minimum, credible independent nuclear deterrent, delivered through a Continuous At-Sea Deterrent. It would require a clear body of evidence for us to change this belief.
In the lead up to the next Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015 we want to see an open, inclusive and transparent process, examining all capabilities, including nuclear. It must also examine cost implications as well as strategic necessities, recognising the importance of the defence sector to the UK economy, and the need to protect and develop a highly skilled workforce. To this end, a Labour Government will have a continuing consultation, involving the public and others, on the UK’s future defence and national security issues.