As we know, it was the famous post-war Labour Government who first acquired Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Clement Attlee had just been elected Prime Minister when America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. He realised in an instant that the air raid wardens and fire engines that had fought to limit the damage done by Hitler’s bombs were now useless in the face of the awesome destructive power of this new weapon. He reasoned that the only way to protect the population was to have the ability to fight back, and therefore to deter the initial threat.
Since then, Labour has for the most part adopted a multilateralist stance on disarmament, believing that while other countries possess nuclear weapons, Britain should not disarm unilaterally. Our 2015 manifesto maintained our commitment to a minimum credible independent nuclear capability, and to looking at further reductions in global stockpiles. By 2025, the UK will have achieved a 65% reduction in the size of its nuclear stockpile.
This Parliament has always taken our disarmament goals seriously, but the world is too unstable and unpredictable right now to contemplate getting rid of our main defence strategies. Part of the abolitionist argument generally relies on the belief that nuclear weapons would not work against the current threats to the modern world from terrorist organisations such as Daesh and Boko Haram. However, just because they would not be used to combat such threats, that does not negate their use as a deterrent against other or future unknown threats. Those with whom we do not always agree—Russia, Iran, China and North Korea, for example —understand the relevance of nuclear weapons and have sought to increase their own capabilities.
I am proud of the superb engineering skills that are nurtured in this highly skilled industry. The MOD has stated that
“maintaining and sustaining the UK’s nuclear deterrent supports over 30,000 UK jobs and makes a significant contribution to the UK economy”.