Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Trident Renewal

Part of Opposition Day — [13th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 5:22 pm on 20th January 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution) 5:22 pm, 20th January 2015

I heard, and I am sure my hon. Friend is aware of these reports, that these cargoes were being shipped through the city centre of Glasgow only last week. That is what we have to put up with in Scotland: these death convoys on our roads.

I am so pleased that nuclear weapons and Trident became a defining iconic feature of the independence referendum. The progressive voices of Scotland got together and ensured that this debate was promoted and taken around the halls of Scotland. I am so proud that I was on the right side of the debate. I would never side with people who believe in nuclear weapons and who continue to support the case for them.

We are not even asking the House to scrap nuclear weapons, or even to reduce their number. We are simply asking the House not to agree to £100 billion of new nuclear weapons. We use the terms multilateralist and unilateralist, but by committing ourselves to Trident renewal we are indulging in a unilateral nuclear rearmament. We are adding to the stock of nuclear weapons worldwide, and that does nothing for the ambition mentioned by those on the Labour Front Bench of ridding the world of nuclear weapons and it does nothing for achieving any multilateral aim.

We are asking the House not to agree to pursue £100 billion of spending on weapons of mass destruction that can never be used. This will be the second time in two weeks that those on the Labour Front Bench and their colleagues will walk through the Lobby with the Tories. Last week, they committed themselves to £30 billion of further austerity, agreeing with the Conservatives.

Today, they will march through the Lobby with the Tories to support them on the subject of £100 billion of spending on nuclear weapons. Last week, Labour said that it was all a gimmick. They have not described our debate today as a gimmick, although I have seen some reports of that, but they are still prepared to support the Conservatives on both issues. People are rightly asking what on earth Labour is for.

We need to hear exactly what people believe will be the biggest spending issue of the next Parliament. Already, £250 million is being spent each year on what is called the assessment phase—the lead-in phase to Trident renewal. Some £1.4 million a day is being spent on preparing for this weapon of mass destruction and an estimated £1.24 billion has been spent on the project so far. That just happens to be the same amount as the Chancellor has pledged to find in new money for the NHS.

We do not know how much this project will cost. We say that it will be £100 billion, but that figure was challenged by the Conservatives. The Secretary of State refused to say how much it would cost, and when he was challenged on the figure, we got nothing from him. We do not know the Government’s estimate of the cost of all this. They talk about the main-gate decision in 2016. I suggest to Ministers that they should slam that main gate closed and leave it padlocked. This country does not want Trident renewal.

How can we justify spending so much money on obscene weapons of mass destruction when food banks are a feature of every community in every constituency in Scotland? The Westminster establishment parties have rarely been held in such contempt. The Westminster elite who run those parties can barely get more than 30% support in the polls. The Westminster establishment parties are so out of kilter with what the public want and the everyday experience of people in every community it is no wonder that they are held in such low esteem and that the House is held in contempt.

The motion is signed by members of the SNP, the Green party and Plaid Cymru, which suggests that we are beginning to do something different. It is an absolute challenge to the old failure of the Westminster—Tory/Labour, Labour/Tory, austerity-voting, Trident-supporting —establishment. We offer the people of Britain the opportunity of a different way of doing things: a progressive alliance that is not prepared to accept that we just go along with £30 billion of further austerity spending and the renewal of Trident weapons.

I am pleased about that, because it means that people in England, for example, do not have to vote for a Europhobic, immigrant-loathing, quasi-racist UK Independence party. They and my hon. Friend Caroline Lucas have something substantial to support and vote for. We have already seen the results, with a Green surge. No wonder that the Labour and Tory parties want Nigel Farage, another establishment public school banker, to take part in the election debates. It does not surprise me that they will do everything that they can to keep my hon. Friend and the SNP out of those debates, although the Prime Minister has stood up, rather late, for the inclusion of the Green party.

Let us see what these weapons do, and challenge and test the assumptions of my friends, the Conservative defence hawks who enjoy nuclear weapons so much. There were unashamed in saying that Trident and weapons of mass destruction were necessary as a virility symbol, allowing us to be part of the P5—as if the British people cared the least bit about any of that. The British people care about spending on the NHS and education. They are concerned about food banks. Being able to sit with other nuclear powers to play with their toys? I do not think that that is what the British people want, and we are beginning to see that in opinion polls here.

We are told that deterrence works because of all sorts of external threats. We have heard some really dodgy stuff about the prospect of using nuclear weapons against Ukraine, and including that in any discussion or debate.