The House of Commons passed a government motion on July 18 on the maintenance of the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent and the government’s plans to replace the existing Vanguard nuclear submarines.
I support international efforts toward multilateral nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and I would like to see greater progress toward a world without nuclear weapons. Indeed, I am very proud of the huge progress made under the previous Labour government in nuclear disarmament through international frameworks. This saw the number of operationally available warheads almost halved, and the number of deployed warheads on each submarine reduced.
These efforts also resulted in the UK becoming the only recognised nuclear-armed Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) country to possess just one nuclear system, when the WE-177 freefall tactical nuclear weapons were withdrawn in 1998. This was important action towards multilateral nuclear disarmament and I hope the current government will ensure that Britain continues to play a leading role in moves toward this ultimate goal.
The UK now possesses approximately 1 per cent of the total global stockpile of nuclear weapons among recognised nuclear weapons states, and by the mid-2020s the UK is scheduled to have achieved a 65 per cent reduction in the size of its overall nuclear stockpile from Cold War levels. This would make the UK the smallest of all the NPT nuclear weapon states.
There are strongly held views on both sides of this debate. The Opposition’s policy, as stated in the manifesto I stood on at the last election, and as reaffirmed at our party conference last September, is to maintain a minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent, delivered through a continuous at-sea deterrent. That is what I voted for on July 18.