My Speech in the House of Commons Debate on Trident Renewal

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin). I listened very carefully to his words, as I did with all the other Conservative hawks. Indeed, we have heard a few Labour hawks, too. I say to him that there is at least an intellectual consistency running through the heart of the debate. We heard it during the period of high Thatcherism when there was a real and substantial threat and we knew what we were up against with the Soviet Union. We are hearing it again now, but we do not know from where the threat is coming or from what we are trying to protect ourselves. I have no idea at whom these weapons will be targeted. Even if we had a nirvana of world peace, we would still have the Tory hawks arguing for their nuclear weapons. They would be telling us why they were an absolute necessity and why the deterrent would have to be a feature of every community in our country.

D5LAUNCHI want to get back to what motivates us. I know what motivates the hawks on the Tory Benches. They like their nuclear weapons—of course they do—and they think they are an important feature of this country. But we all come to this matter with a set of principles—a value system—that helps to inform the important decisions that we have to take as public representatives and legislators. That is our political and moral compass, and it helps us to determine our approach to public life and the important decisions that we take in this House.

Nothing is more important to me than my fundamental belief, desire and drive to rid my country of nuclear weapons and to end the absurdity, nonsense and madness of nuclear deterrence. For me, it is an unshakeable imperative and a moral, non-negotiable responsibility. I could never countenance agreeing to have nuclear weapons as an ongoing feature of my nation.

I am appalled that my beautiful country is defiled by the presence of these evil weapons of mass destruction, 40 miles from our largest city. My lovely Scotland—

Mr Kevan Jones rose—

Pete Wishart: Yes, I know what the hon. Gentleman is going to say, so let us get it over with.

Mr Jones: The hon. Gentleman said that he had a principled position to rid Scotland of nuclear weapons, but he is prepared to join NATO, which is a nuclear alliance. Would he, as an SNP member in an independent Scotland, join the nuclear planning group and allow nuclear-armed submarines to visit Scotland?

Pete Wishart: That intervention was predictable. The hon. Gentleman is like a stuck record. I have been to Denmark—I actually sold 250,000 records in Denmark with my previous group—and for him to tell the Danes that they are a nuclear power would be a gross—

Mr Jones rose—

Pete Wishart: No, I will not give way. I have heard that so many times: Denmark, Norway, Spain. Canada, for goodness’ sake, got rid of American nuclear weapons and is still in NATO. The hon. Gentleman does not understand and I am not prepared to take an intervention from him. He is a stuck record, spinning round and round all day, and I think the whole House is sick of it.

My peaceful Scotland is host to the largest silo of weapons of mass destruction in western Europe. Lorries carrying all sorts of parts to service and keep this genocidal arsenal roll happily along the roads of Scotland almost unnoticed and untroubled with their death-maintaining cargo. Weapons of mass destruction such as Trident sit uneasily and angularly with everything I know about the fantastic values of my country. It is a country of social solidarity, trying to promote the common weal and strong community values, yet my country hosts the biggest arsenal of genocidal weapons in western Europe.

Mr Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): Is not the situation actually worse than that? A previous speaker talked about other nuclear installations around the country, but is it not the case that convoys are bringing these nuclear weapons through the city of Glasgow to get to Faslane?

Pete Wishart: I heard, and I am sure my hon. Friend is aware of these reports, that these cargoes were being shipped through the city centre of Glasgow only last week. That is what we have to put up with in Scotland: these death convoys on our roads.

I am so pleased that nuclear weapons and Trident became a defining iconic feature of the independence referendum. The progressive voices of Scotland got together and ensured that this debate was promoted and taken around the halls of Scotland. I am so proud that I was on the right side of the debate. I would never side with people who believe in nuclear weapons and who continue to support the case for them.

We are not even asking the House to scrap nuclear weapons, or even to reduce their number. We are simply asking the House not to agree to £100 billion of new nuclear weapons. We use the terms multilateralist and unilateralist, but by committing ourselves to Trident renewal we are indulging in a unilateral nuclear rearmament. We are adding to the stock of nuclear weapons worldwide, and that does nothing for the ambition mentioned by those on the Labour Front Bench of ridding the world of nuclear weapons and it does nothing for achieving any multilateral aim.

We are asking the House not to agree to pursue £100 billion of spending on weapons of mass destruction that can never be used. This will be the second time in two weeks that those on the Labour Front Bench and their colleagues will walk through the Lobby with the Tories. Last week, they committed themselves to £30 billion of further austerity, agreeing with the Conservatives.

Today, they will march through the Lobby with the Tories to support them on the subject of £100 billion of spending on nuclear weapons. Last week, Labour said that it was all a gimmick. They have not described our debate today as a gimmick, although I have seen some reports of that, but they are still prepared to support the Conservatives on both issues. People are rightly asking what on earth Labour is for.

We need to hear exactly what people believe will be the biggest spending issue of the next Parliament. Already, £250 million is being spent each year on what is called the assessment phase—the lead-in phase to Trident renewal. Some £1.4 million a day is being spent on preparing for this weapon of mass destruction and an estimated £1.24 billion has been spent on the project so far. That just happens to be the same amount as the Chancellor has pledged to find in new money for the NHS.

We do not know how much this project will cost. We say that it will be £100 billion, but that figure was challenged by the Conservatives. The Secretary of State refused to say how much it would cost, and when he was challenged on the figure, we got nothing from him. We do not know the Government’s estimate of the cost of all this. They talk about the main-gate decision in 2016. I suggest to Ministers that they should slam that main gate closed and leave it padlocked. This country does not want Trident renewal.

How can we justify spending so much money on obscene weapons of mass destruction when food banks are a feature of every community in every constituency in Scotland? The Westminster establishment parties have rarely been held in such contempt. The Westminster elite who run those parties can barely get more than 30% support in the polls. The Westminster establishment parties are so out of kilter with what the public want and the everyday experience of people in every community it is no wonder that they are held in such low esteem and that the House is held in contempt.

The motion is signed by members of the SNP, the Green party and Plaid Cymru, which suggests that we are beginning to do something different. It is an absolute challenge to the old failure of the Westminster—Tory/Labour, Labour/Tory, austerity-voting, Trident-supporting —establishment. We offer the people of Britain the opportunity of a different way of doing things: a progressive alliance that is not prepared to accept that we just go along with £30 billion of further austerity spending and the renewal of Trident weapons.

I am pleased about that, because it means that people in England, for example, do not have to vote for a Europhobic, immigrant-loathing, quasi-racist UK Independence party. They and my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) have something substantial to support and vote for. We have already seen the results, with a Green surge. No wonder that the Labour and Tory parties want Nigel Farage, another establishment public school banker, to take part in the election debates. It does not surprise me that they will do everything that they can to keep my hon. Friend and the SNP out of those debates, although the Prime Minister has stood up, rather late, for the inclusion of the Green party.

Let us see what these weapons do, and challenge and test the assumptions of my friends, the Conservative defence hawks who enjoy nuclear weapons so much. There were unashamed in saying that Trident and weapons of mass destruction were necessary as a virility symbol, allowing us to be part of the P5—as if the British people cared the least bit about any of that. The British people care about spending on the NHS and education. They are concerned about food banks. Being able to sit with other nuclear powers to play with their toys? I do not think that that is what the British people want, and we are beginning to see that in opinion polls here.

We are told that deterrence works because of all sorts of external threats. We have heard some really dodgy stuff about the prospect of using nuclear weapons against Ukraine, and including that in any discussion or debate.

Mr Jenkin: If France, Britain and America do not dominate the P5, who does? There is always talk about other powers joining the P5. If India, or perhaps less savoury countries, joined the P5, that would not be good for British security and the democratic world. We are there for a purpose, which is to serve the democratic world, and we do it very well.

Pete Wishart: That is the difference between the hon. Gentleman and me. He believes that that is important, but I could not care less about that sort of thing. I believe that it is increasingly the case that the British people could not care less about that. We are struggling—there is real need and deprivation—with Tory obscenities like the bedroom tax. Does he honestly believe that people in the constituency of the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Jim Sheridan) care whether they can sit around the table with the big boys and their weapons of mass destruction? No, I do not believe that that is the case, and the British people have begun to wake up to that.

The Government say that nuclear weapons defend us against threats. The biggest threat we face is from IS and jihadists, who would be almost delighted if we threatened them with weapons of mass destruction. They would celebrate and punch the air, because Britain would be turning it on—they would appreciate and enjoy it. This is a weapons system designed to deal with the Brezhnevs of this world, not the bin Ladens. It is a cold war response to a cold war situation, and it is ill equipped to deal with the very serious external threats that we face. North Korea is a cartoon caricature of a totalitarian state. Are we seriously suggesting that we contain these nonsensical states with nuclear weapons?

I do not even know whether we are an ally of Iran this week or an enemy, such is the state of continuing flux with all the former enemies who are now new friends. We cannot keep pace with identifying who these external threats are, but the only thing we must consistently have is nuclear weapons to threaten them. If there was ever a logic to nuclear weapons—it would be a perverted logic if so—it was the idea of mutually assured destruction during the cold war: “We could kill all you guys because you could kill all our guys.” It is utter madness to think that that is an applicable argument in this modern age with this new variety of threats.

We are going to spend £100 billion on these weapons of mass destruction that we will never use just so that the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin)

and his friends in the Conservative Government can sit at the top table. This is on top of the £30 billion of extra austerity promised to us by both the Conservative party and the Labour party. People are increasingly talking about a new alliance with the 30 per centers, as we could call them—the Conservative and Labour parties, which cannot get above that figure. That is a realistic prospect, because this will be the second time in a week that they have voted together on such issues. There is a new way of doing things in this country and a new alliance is beginning.

Mr Marcus Jones: The hon. Gentleman is expressing the view that nuclear disarmament is very popular. When was the last time that a Government in this country were elected on the basis of nuclear disarmament?

Pete Wishart: Let me tell the hon. Gentleman about the front page of a national newspaper in Scotland today showing that 60% of the Scottish people are now opposed to nuclear weapons. That is people in the constituency of the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, in my constituency, and in the constituency of the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Gemma Doyle). This is now a popular movement that is beginning to gain traction.

Gemma Doyle (West Dunbartonshire) (Lab/Co-op): Let me clarify this for the record. I have seen the figures that the hon. Gentleman mentions, and he excluded the “don’t knows” in that poll. In fact, fewer than half, not 60%, of people hold the position that he describes.

Pete Wishart: The hon. Lady and I have been through lots of opinion polls in the past year. If she is so confident about her position, she should go out on the hustings and explain why Scottish Labour is a nuclear party that is prepared to spend £100 billion on Trident renewal. That is what she will have to do, and I wish her all the best in trying to get re-elected on that basis, because there is now an alternative.

There is a new way of doing things. The Westminster establishment and the Westminster elite that run this place are beginning to experience real electoral difficulties. People across the country are recognising that the old ways of doing things are not good enough. Cold war weapons for an austerity future: that is what both parties are promising, and that is what will be rejected at the next election.

1 thought on “My Speech in the House of Commons Debate on Trident Renewal

  1. valerierooney

    An intelligent and thoughtful speech, leaving no doubt about your commitment. Comments made by Tory and Labour were really woeful, reeking of their resentment to even be questioned on the stupidity of their position.

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