UK's Nuclear Deterrent

Part of Terrorist Attack: Nice – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 18th July 2016.

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Photo of Adrian Bailey Adrian Bailey Labour/Co-operative, West Bromwich West 8:30 pm, 18th July 2016

I rise to support the motion. The Prime Minister said earlier that the first duty of a Government is to protect their citizens. I would add that the first duty of an Opposition, if they hope to become a Government, is to convince the electorate and the public at large that they will, and above all that they can, do the same. The Opposition cannot be ambiguous on that commitment. I fully understand those in our party who feel that their ethical values and the values of the Labour party are incompatible with that stance, but the public—the electorate—do not feel that our values and ethics are an adequate defence in the face of military aggression from countries that might threaten us.

I am old enough to remember campaigning in the days when Labour’s policy was unilateralism. I remember the cruel caricature of Labour’s defence policy, which was somebody standing with their hands up, labelled “Labour’s defence policy.” Regrettably, it resonated with many of Labour’s traditional voters. The feeling that, above all, people are entitled to security transcends voting behaviour, social class and income. It goes right across the piece, and Labour paid a very high price for failing to recognise that in the 1980s.

My hon. Friend Mike Gapes talked about how we succeeded in changing Labour’s former policy. Change it we did, and since then, whatever disagreements the electorate have had with Labour, they have not been about defence. We have won three general elections with a multilateral defence policy. In fact, multilateral defence and an independent nuclear deterrent have been our policy for the last six general elections and were a manifesto commitment in the last general election. That is backed by trade unions, which recognise that any removal of Trident would have a huge impact on levels of employment and skills, which are absolutely essential to people’s welfare.