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3 March 2007


Speech at Lib Dem Party Conference, Harrogate

Two threats face us all in the future - Global Warming & Terrorism. Nuclear Weapons are useless against both.

We do not know for sure what tomorrow will bring and where security or other threats will come from. Why then, if the risk is unknown, is the response so definitely a nuclear arsenal?

If nuclear deterrence has worked, will someone tell me who has been deterred? Which nation has been so mad that they would launch a nuclear strike on us, and at the same time so reasonable, that they were stopped from doing so by our possession of these weapons?

We are members of a very small exclusive club of nuclear powers. A few, very few countries want to join, but most countries of the world are not members and don’t want to join. Most European nations do not possess nuclear weapons.

If is it good enough for Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden and Norway, it should be good enough for us.

And, if proliferation is a problem, what moral justification is there to say “we are entitled to possess weapons, but others are not”. Others like North Korea and Iran.

Don’t take my word for it - listen to what Dr Hauns Blix had to say, remember Hauns Blix? Remember when he challenged the “dodgy” dossier, claiming Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons. He was sent to find them but came back empty handed. Blair should have listened to him then and we should listen to him now.

He has said that modernising Britain’s arsenal will put the non proliferation treaty under strain and will increase the likelihood that non-nuclear states such as Iran will want to join that nuclear club. The chairman of the Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction knows what he is talking about.

And what could be done with the money saved if Trident is not replaced? Our priorities should be protecting the planet, building a first class health and education service, investing in our children’s future, looking after the vulnerable in society, and ending child and pensioner poverty at home.

And further a-field, the war we should be waging with these resources is the war against poverty and hunger in Africa and beyond, the battle against Aids, TB and Malaria which have killed over 6 million people this year. Caring for the victims of war– the orphans and those trapped in refugee camps in Darfur or helping the millions who do not have access to clean drinking water and will die before they are 5 years old.

Fellow Liberal Democrats, on 14th March I will be voting against the government’s plans to replace Trident. The parliamentary party should be united on that day - I ask for your support on this. Tony Blair will have the support of the Conservative party, which is not a surprise, as many see him as their natural leader.

After that, and before the next election, we should spell out a better alternative vision for the future, not what is in this motion.

We must be clear about what kind of society we want to live in and to bequeath to future generations. Is it to be based on fear or hope?

Those who want to build the future based on the threat of mass destruction by nuclear weapons, will not only have made the world a more dangerous place, they will have missed a golden opportunity to leave behind an age when mankind has spent much of it’s time developing weapons with the capacity to destroy all life on the planet, many times over.

Keeping 50% of our destructive capability is not good enough - we can offer the public something better.

Nuclear weapons were developed to deal with the threats of the last century. It is time to move on, and to consign them to history.

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This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. The site content is being kept online as a source of information, but all forms / email have been disabled.