UK's Nuclear Deterrent

Part of Terrorist Attack: Nice – in the House of Commons at 6:34 pm on 18th July 2016.

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Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Conservative, Tonbridge and Malling 6:34 pm, 18th July 2016

It is a privilege to speak in a debate on one of the most essential issues that the House could discuss. This is not about a variation in tax policy that could be reversed or a change in social norms that will evolve with time; it is about the ultimate security of our nation in the coming century. This is not a time for games or minor interventions on questions of no relevance. It is time for a debate about the security of our state, the strategy of the UK and her place in the world.

I am proud to stand here, on the Conservative Benches, and look across at the Labour Benches and know that there are many people who value the UK—our freedom, our sovereignty, our liberty, our right to self-determination. I understand that they require an ultimate guarantee. We all know the truly horrific nature of these weapons, but it is through their horror and threat that they work. If they were not so horrific or terrible, the deterrent would not be so complete. We have seen time and again that the awfulness of weaponry demands a graduated response. When we see the initial use of force, we see the armaments of the infantryman and the armaments of small aircraft. We have seen this in Europe in the past century—even in the years since the second world war: we have seen Kosovo, we have seen Ukraine, we have seen threats to our close allies in Estonia.

We see these things, however, because the weapons used are controllable and measurable; they are, to use that awful phrase, small arms. However, the capability and purpose of the nuclear deterrent lies in its not being so measurable or controllable. It is truly horrific; and in that, it works. It works not because of its first-strike capability—any fool can have a first-strike capability—but in the second strike. It works not as a weapon of aggression but only as a post mortem weapon. It is a weapon that assures your enemy that, no matter what they have done to you, you can still respond. It is the ultimate guarantee of our sovereignty and security.

It is astonishing that, having just had a referendum in which we discussed the sovereignty and control of our nation, some people are looking to hand it over and diminish it, even though we know what counts. I therefore welcome what the Prime Minister said today. When asked if she would consider using the weapon, she said yes. She gave the clarity that deterrence requires and showed the strength that will make her a fine Prime Minister. It is that strength and clarity, around the most horrific of all weapons systems, that will maintain our sovereignty and freedom.

I have heard people ask today about the UK’s place in the world. Our place is at the top table, guaranteeing the international order and the freedoms and liberties of our friends. When I hear talk of unilateral disarmament and appeasement, I hear talk not of honour and morality but of dishonour and immorality. It is to abandon our position and our friends to say that dictators and despots should keep their weapons of destruction and nuclear power but that democrats should abandon the ability to defend themselves and their friends. That is unacceptable. The spectrum of defence, from the infantryman to the nuclear missile, is intertwined, is one, is blended. To unpick or divide is to disarm even the infantryman at the front. It is wrong, therefore, to talk of reducing spend on nuclear weapons and a lie to say that the money would be better spent on conventional weapons.