Nuclear Weapons (International Relations Committee Report) - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:14 pm on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green 6:14 pm, 16th July 2019

My Lords, I declare an interest as a vice-president of the London Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I too congratulate the International Relations Committee and its chair the noble Lord, Lord Howell, on its excellent report.

When I am given a report like this, I turn immediately to the summary in the hope that it means I do not have to read the rest of the document. Quite honestly, the first paragraph was so distressing—I had such an emotional response to it—that I read other parts of the report. The first paragraph says:

“The level of nuclear risk has increased … There is a danger that misunderstanding, miscalculation or mistakes could lead to the use of nuclear weapons”.

How utterly depressing. It seems that, as others have said, the world is now almost out of control. We are not taking into account just how powerful these weapons are; they are weapons of terror, and their use is the greatest crime against humanity.

The supposed justification for nuclear weapons is the doctrine of mutually assured destruction. One day, I hope, foreign policy based on mass murder and the inevitable extinction of humanity will be viewed as the most barbaric and depraved idea ever conceived. It would be wonderful today to hear from the Minister the unequivocal statement, which can be found of page 27 of this report, that

“a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”.

Anything less than that is dangerous and delusional.

As others have said, we live in dangerous times globally. We have a President in the White House on Twitter, engaged in toilet diplomacy of a kind which can escalate tensions and move global markets in an instant. All the while, his military attaché is just a few metres away with nuclear codes that could be used by mistake or by miscalculation. We have also heard candidates for elections start to brag about how they would be the first to push the nuclear button and start a nuclear war by launching a first strike.

There is also the unequal way in which the West treats emerging nuclear powers, casting a blind eye to the nuclear weapons of Israel, India and Pakistan while taking a hard-line stance against Iran and North Korea. All the while, the non-nuclear countries which signed up to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty must feel cheated that the nuclear countries are not holding up their end of the bargain to progressively disband their nuclear arsenals. Instead, we are renewing Trident and expanding nuclear arsenals.

The UK Government must deploy their full diplomatic force in this area, treating nuclear disarmament as one of our top priorities on the international stage. The Select Committee’s report sets out a credible road map by which the Government could take forward this idea. They should adopt it in full. In particular, the Foreign Secretary should take a leadership role in this area and represent the UK in international negotiations on nuclear disarmament.

As a nuclear power, we should be clearer about our doctrine, ending the strategic ambiguity in favour of a no-first-strike policy and encouraging that as the global norm. No serious contender for public office, let alone the Prime Minister, should try to make a political point out of their willingness to initiate a nuclear war and murder millions of innocent civilians. We must strive towards a nuclear-free world where the capability to kill every human being on earth in a matter of moments is consigned to the dystopian nightmares where it belongs.