I rise to speak in favour of the motion, for the following reasons. First, it is the policy on which I was elected. My Labour colleagues and I were elected on the basis of a manifesto commitment to support the retention of an independent nuclear deterrent, and that is what we must do tonight. As a committed democrat, I intend to fulfil the mandate given to me by the 15,000 people in Aberavon who elected me, and my colleagues should do the same and fulfil the mandate they have from the 9.3 million people who voted Labour last May.
The second reason is jobs. As a Member of Parliament proud to represent the steelmaking heartland of Britain and Wales, I am acutely aware of the industrial implications that a vote against the motion would have. Across its lifetime, Trident will support almost 26,000 jobs, including 13,000 in advanced manufacturing. It will affect more than 1,000 businesses in almost 450 towns and cities across Britain. Scrapping Trident would further skew the economy, defence being one of the few sectors reliably and consistently creating sustainable, highly skilled and well-paid jobs outside London. As Unite the union stated just a few days ago, there can be no
“moral case for a trade union accepting the obliteration of thousands of its members’
jobs and the communities in which they live being turned into ghost towns.”
Thirdly, some years before entering this place, I worked for the British Council as director of its St Petersburg office. I have seen at first hand the nature of the Putin regime. I was withdrawn from Russia owing to concerns about my personal security, after the Kremlin’s campaign of intimidation in the wake of the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. Just remember that. This is a regime that responds to having been caught red handed murdering a British citizen on British soil using nuclear material with denial, aggression and intimidation. My experiences in Russia convinced me of the need to retain our nuclear deterrent. We must be able to stand up to bullies.
We live in an unstable and unpredictable world. We know that expansionist, belligerent regimes such as the one currently governing Russia thrive in such conditions. The Russian Government have pressed forward with the development of the Dolgorukiy ballistic missile submarine and the next generation of cruise missiles. This is not the type of missile that we can hope James Bond will sneak in and disarm. The threat represented by this type of weapon can be prevented only through deterrence. Nuclear weapons exist precisely so that we will never have to use them.
I would dearly like to live in a world without nuclear weapons, but we must engage with the world as it is, not how we would like it to be. We must be realists, not fantasists. Deterrence has kept the peace for over 70 years. To give up the capacity for independent action would not only expose us to nuclear blackmail but severely weaken our standing in the world. So I ask all hon. Members to stand up for Britain when they enter the Division Lobby this evening and to join me in supporting the motion.