It is hardly surprising that in May 2009 an intense debate went on in the shadow Cabinet about going for a less expensive upgrade by converting to air-launched missiles. Sir Nicholas Soames said at the time that
“the arguments have not yet been had in public in nearly an adequate enough way to warrant the spending of this nation’s treasure on the scale that will be required.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 491, c. 84.]
Seven years later, we are perhaps in the same situation.
The motion proposes an open-ended commitment to maintain Britain’s current nuclear capability for as long as the global security situation demands. We on the Opposition Benches, despite our differences on some issues, have always argued for the aim of a nuclear-free world. We might differ on how to achieve it, but we are united in our commitment to that end.
In 2007, my right hon. Friend Margaret Beckett embarked on a meaningful attempt to build consensus for multilateral disarmament. Will the Government address where these Successor submarines are going to be based? The people of Scotland have rejected Trident’s being based in Faslane naval base on the Clyde—the SNP Government are opposed to it, as is the Scottish Labour party.
We are debating not a nuclear deterrent but our continued possession of weapons of mass destruction. We are discussing eight missiles and 40 warheads, with each warhead believed to be eight times as powerful as the atomic bomb that killed 140,000 people in Hiroshima in 1945. We are talking about 40 warheads, each one with a capacity to kill more than 1 million people.
What, then, is the threat that we face that will be deterred by the death of more than 1 million people? It is not the threat from so-called Islamic State, with its poisonous death-cult that glories in killing as many people as possible, as we have seen brutally from Syria to east Africa and from France to Turkey. It has not deterred our allies Saudi Arabia from committing dreadful acts in Yemen. It did not stop Saddam Hussein’s atrocities in the 1980s or the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It did not deter the war crimes in the Balkans in the 1990s, nor the genocide in Rwanda. I make it clear today that I would not take a decision that killed millions of innocent people. I do not believe that the threat of mass murder is a legitimate way to go about dealing with international relations.