Thursday 15 March 2007

Trident Vote In Commons; A Third of the PLP rejects Trident Decision.

I am just back from the debate in the Commons on the replacement of Trident. Over 90 Labour MPs voted against the Prime Minister's proposal to commission the construction of the new nuclear submarines immediately.

Labour MP after Labour MP questioned Ministers on why the rush to such an early decision on Trident replacement. The independent evidence and expert advice explained that, just as with the system used in America, the operational life of the existing submarines could be extended to enable a thorough analysis of whether the renewal of our nuclear deterrent was necessary at all.

In 2010, Britain will be involved in the international assessment and review of the implementation of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. It was argued by a number of MPs that this would provide the objective evidence on which to judge whether Britain's nuclear arsenal was needed or should be renewed.

Despite the depth of feeling shown by Labour MPs, with over 90 voting against the Government and about 60 abstaining, Tony Blair with Gordon Brown's fullsome backing forced the vote through Parliament with the support of Tory MPs.

In effect on this and many other issues we now have Tony Blair leading a national coalition government, with Brown in support.

The Labour Party and the country has been bounced into supporting what we now know from Number 10's recently published emails was a done deal between Blair and Bush last September.

The Labour Party has been refused a say on this question as all resolutions on Trident were ruled out of order at last year's annual conference.

Labour MPs have been denied sight if the legal advice given to the Prime Minister on the legality of renewing Trident.

There has been no major consultation exercise in the country which a critical long term and expensive policy decision like this merits.

Trident is part of the Blair legacy agenda and the timing of this decision is based upon an agreement with Brown that his path to the leadership would not be littered with this unpopular decision outstanding.

This strategy has disastrously backfired. We now have a party divided at every level with only weeks to go before the crucial elections in Scotland, Wales and local councils in England.

The issue of nuclear weapons will also not go away. The decision on the main contract will be required in two to four years and already the demand is that it must come before Parliament for decision.

Tonight's decision risks contributing to the setting in train of a global escalation in the acquisition of nuclear arms. Let's build the campaign to ensure that when the next stage decision returns to Parliament we do not have a leader of the Labour Party who is willing to use the votes of Tories to put our country and planet at risk from nuclear weapons.