Monday 4 December 2006

Trident Replacement : The Party should Decide.

Today the Cabinet meets to be presented with a copy of the White Paper on the future of Trident. A couple of hours later the publication of the White Paper will be announced in a statement to the House of Commons. So much for Cabinet government, ministers will have no opportunity to amend the White Paper, which has already been printed.

The media has been widely briefed by Number 10 that there will be about three months consultation and then the recommendations of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to replace Trident will be put to a vote in Parliament. So much for Labour Party democracy, party members will be excluded by Blair and Brown from determining policy on one of the most important decisions of this generation.

I oppose the replacement of Trident as I believe it is a waste of vast resources, (estimated at anything between £26 and £76 billion) on a weapon of mass destruction which is impotent in protecting us against modern day threats and which encourages nuclear proliferation thus making the world less safe.

However, there may be many in the party who support nuclear weapons and Trident rewewal. None of us, either for or against Trident, are to be allowed by Blair and Brown to determine democratically the policy of our party and therefore our government on this issue.

I am calling for the decision on Trident renewal to be put to Labour Party conference. Even the most hawkish promoters of Trident renewal do not think that there is any logistical reason for a decision to be rushed through in the next three months as the Prime Minister is demanding. Instead the timing seems to be simply part of the Blair legacy agenda and part of a deal between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to get an unpopular decision out of the way early.

I believe that there should be a thorough period of discussion, questionning and debate, enabling the Labour Party conference in September 2007 to come to a final decision.

By attempting to bounce this decision through Parliament on the back of Tory votes and preventing the party from taking a decision on a question of such critical importance, both Blair and Brown are risking splitting the party, alienating even more of our supporters and undermining what little faith there is left in democracy within our party.

Let our members decide.