UK's Nuclear Deterrent

Part of Terrorist Attack: Nice – in the House of Commons at 7:33 pm on 18th July 2016.

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Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Labour, Tottenham 7:33 pm, 18th July 2016

I commend that Swedish programme. Like my hon. Friend, I stand here first and foremost as a Christian, and I speak from that perspective. I stand here united with Pope Benedict XVI, who has said:

“In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims.”

I stand here alongside all the world’s faiths. In the words of the UK multi-faith statement on nuclear weapons:

“Any use of nuclear weapons would have devastating humanitarian consequences…and violate the principle of dignity for every human being that is common to each of our faith traditions.”

The idea of loving thy neighbour and protecting our world for future generations simply cannot hold if we have stockpiles of weapons that can destroy our neighbours and our world. Not only do nuclear weapons contradict religious principles, but any form of international relations based on the threat of mutual destruction is totally contradictory to the preamble and article 1 of the United Nations charter, which talks of a system of peaceful resolution of disputes.

It is against that backdrop that I recall that I joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Anti-Apartheid Movement before I became a member of the Labour party. I remember growing up in the 1980s hugely disturbed by the idea of nuclear annihilation, which was played out all the time in films such as “Threads”. The cold war has of course dissipated somewhat, but each of the 40 warheads carried by a Trident submarine is exponentially more powerful than the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan in 1945, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of people and casting a long and dark shadow over our history.

It is right to remind the House of the huge cost of the Trident programme, and to mention my constituents. My constituency has seen two riots in a generation; residential care homes, drop-in centres and youth centres have closed; unemployment is double the national average; and life expectancy is five years below the national average. Haringey is home to 12 of the most deprived wards in the country, and 47% of children in a ward on the doorstep of Spurs live in poverty. Against that backdrop, I cannot with good conscience vote for what is effectively a blank cheque for nuclear weapons.

I am not in the same place that I was as an 18, 19, or 20-year-old. It is possible to come to a multilateralist view and still have concerns about scale and cost. We should ask some pretty hard questions about why we do not share a nuclear capacity with our neighbours in NATO and why we need to have an independent programme at such a huge cost. Given our commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, why do we hear so little about it? Thatcher and Reagan used to talk about it regularly in the 1980s, but why do we vote against non-proliferation at the UN?

People such as Field Marshal Lord Bramall, General Lord Ramsbotham and General Sir Hugh Beach have said:

“Nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of the violence we currently face, or are likely to face—particularly international terrorism.”

Those men are no pacifists or unilateralists, they are simply responding to a changing international context. It is with that in mind that I will vote against the Government tonight.