Last summer, while making clear his own pro-nuclear views, Tony Blair promised that there would be a full public and parliamentary debate before any final decision abut the replacement of Trident was taken. Some of us were naïve enough to believe what he said and looked forward to the opportunity to test all the government arguments openly and rigorously. We should have known better.
The Government published its White Paper in the run-up to Christmas (Green Papers invite open discussion, White Papers record policy decisions already taken) and promises a parliamentary debate (guillotined, i.e. time-limited with a whipped vote) in early March. Absolutely nothing has been done by the government to facilitate public discussion, and although several Cabinet members have been looking distinctly uncomfortable it is obvious that party unity is everything and that no-one will step out of line. (How we miss Robin Cook!)
A new Early Day Motion (EDM 579) put forward by Jon Trickett MP calls upon the government to "extend the period of consultation to enable all political parties and other organisations with a legitimate interest to undertake full discussion and consultation which will enable them to present their views and make representations to Honourable Members before a debate and vote". We have written to Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond inviting him to sign, in the interests of democracy.
This would be the outcome of the recommendations in the government White Paper ("The Future of the UK Nuclear Deterrent", published in December). Work on construction of the new Orion laser at Aldermaston has been progressing for the past year. AWE has recently purchased the world's most advanced supercomputer, submitted plans for a £60 million office building (to house some of the 1,200 new staff it is currently recruiting) and entered into contracts with hundreds of private companies. According to AWE itself these new developments are expected to be on the scale of Terminal 5 at Heathrow.
Despite all this evidence that the government has already taken the decision to build the facilities to test, design and construct a new generation of nuclear weapons, many have detected a slightly diffident note throughout the December White Paper. "The document is remarkably defensive in response to earlier critiques from the peace and anti-nuclear weapon movement, showing that these are having a substantial impact" writes Peter Nicholls of Abolition 2000.
For example (p14, p20) NPT "recognition" of UK status as a nuclear weapons state is used to refute the argument that a new generation of UK nuclear weapons would contravene its disarmament responsibilities under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. "It always needs re-emphasising that the distinction between nuclear weapons states (NWS) and non-NWS in the NPT is simply a practical one based upon the state of play in 1968. Had the treaty been signed into law more recently, the NWS would have included at least India and Pakistan if not Israel and North Korea. The treaty obligations on NWS and non-NWS are the same. The treaty does not give special status to the five signatory NWS, it calls upon them to disarm" (Peter Nicholls). [Article IX of the NPT defines NWS "for the purposes of this treaty" as those who tested before 1967.]
The text of the White Paper is available on-line.
World Court Project UK has prepared a full analysis of the legal aspects of December's White Paper on the "Future of the UK Nuclear Deterrent". There are two information sheets:
The NPT sheet analyses the legal aspects of the NPT which demand "negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament" and points out how the White Paper falls short of these requirements. The sheet on International Humanitarian Law questions whether any nuclear weapons can ever be used lawfully. (An aspect which hardly gets a mention in the White Paper.)
We have sent the material to Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond and asked for his comments. Please contact Joanna (8543 0362) for copies.
WDC/CND made a submission to the Defence Committee's enquiry into the government White Paper on "The Future of the UK Nuclear Deterrent" asking the committee to consider the following points:
On January 16th the Committee took evidence from Sian Jones (Aldermaston Women's Peace Campaign), Bruce Kent, Di McDonald, and John Ainslie (Scottish CND). You can follow the progress of the enquiry on the Committee's website:
Walter Wolfgang became a national figure when he challenged the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw over Iraq at the Labour Party Conference in 2005, and was unceremoniously ejected by party 'heavies'. But of course he has long been known to us as an active campaigner in CND, and he has kindly agreed to speak and lead a discussion about Trident here in Wimbledon. The meeting will be held in the usual place at the usual time: Community Centre, St George's Road SW19, Tuesday February 13th 8pm. Please do everything you can to publicise the event: pass on the enclosed flyer to a friend, neighbour or colleague, or display in your shop, church or club. And above all else -- BE THERE!
An amazing article by four leading US architects of the Cold War -- Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, George Shultz and William Perry -- recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal under the title "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons"; the proposals made will be familiar to most of us, but the astonishing element comes from the names involved. These are key officials who once defined Cold War nuclear strategy, and are now publicly embracing the issues of the peace movement. The points they make are as follows:
Artist Mark Wallinger has reconstructed lone protester Brian Haw's display as it looked just before it was dismantled and removed from Parliament Square by police on 23rd May last year. Over 600 items have been lovingly remade and reassembled, and the effects of weather, age etc recreated to make a faithful facsimile. And all this is now on display as the 'Duveen Galleries Commission 2007' at Tate Britain. The galleries are bisected by the boundary of the 1km 'exclusion zone' around Parliament (within which unauthorised protest is no longer permitted) so Mark Wallinger has marked the limit of the zone with a line on the floor. As the Tate's press release puts it "In bringing back into the public domain a construction of Haw's protest before its curtailment, Wallinger raises challenging questions about issues of freedom of expression and erosion of civil liberties in Britain today.... Since the mid-1980s Wallinger's prime concern has been to establish a valid critical approach to the politics of representation and the representation of politics and has often explored issues of the responsibilities of individuals and those of society in his work."
Admission is free and Tate Britain (Millbank) is open every day 10am-5·50pm. The exhibition continues until August 27th.
Action for UN Renewal, the campaign for United Nations reform, is holding a speaker meeting on 20th February which will be addressed by Carne Ross on the subject 'How the United Nations Security Council makes bad decisions'. Carne Ross was a member of the UK diplomatic staff at the Security Council for many years, including the period that covered the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, the imposition of sanctions on Iraq and the preparation for the Iraq war, and is a registered specialist at Chatham House. He resigned in protest against the war on Iraq and set up a non-profit organisation that gives advice on diplomatic matters.
The meeting will take place in the Wilson Room, Portcullis House, Westminster on Tuesday 20th February from 7-9pm. All are welcome and admission is free. For more details on Action for UN Renewal, contact Jim Addington (chair) on 020 8399 2547 or see http://www.action-for-un-renewal.org.uk
On Monday lunch-times in March, Merton UNA will be showing the DVD of Al Gore's must-see documentary An Inconvenient Truth: Global Warming in four sections, followed by discussions. The screenings will take place at Flat 11, Wilberforce House, 119 Worple Road, London SW20 8ET, from 1·30-2·30pm (or bring a packed lunch at 1pm). To attend, contact Alison Williams on 020 8944 firstname.lastname@example.org
"[Trident] needs no practical use because it is an icon of self-belief, a symbol of high cultural value in the politics of these islands. Think of Easter Island and the history of its destruction.... The Easter Islanders became so obsessed with their own status symbols, the moai -- the mighty stone statues for which their island is famous -- that in erecting them they destroyed every tree that made life on the island sustainable, competing clan against clan in statue-building.
"The Labour cabinet will reckon that spending £25bn on our own moai will not reduce us to destitution -- and political symbols have rich value. Ministers will think it is money well spent if that's what it costs to keep Labour in power."
Polly Toynbee in The Guardian, 5/12/2006