'NUCLEAR DEBATE WILL BE EXPLOSIVE'

By Julian Lewis

Southern Daily Echo – 23 May 2005

So, it's all over bar the shouting ... But, back in Westminster, big changes are under way. The Government now faces the genuine possibility of being defeated when really controversial measures arise. The Opposition faces yet another leadership contest. The Liberal Democrats boringly tell us, yet again, how they really oppose the Government with which they almost invariably collude. And, as usual, choices have to be made.

First, the changes: this is my first Parliament without the presence of Tam Dalyell. He was the Labour MP who turned the questioning of Ministers into an art form. One of Robin Cook's worst moments as Foreign Secretary was when he tried to defend the bombing of what were believed to be chemical weapons factories in the Middle East.

Lethally, Tam asked him:

"What, exactly, happens when an incoming omb his a pile of chemical weapons?"

Robin could only give the lame reply:

"Well, that's why we carefully target, in order to miss them!"

Another Labour absentee in the same mould is young John Cryer – ousted by the Conservatives in Hornchurch. John always impressed me and many others with his sincerity, integrity and total commitment to preserving British sovereignty against the encroachments of the European Union. I certainly hope he finds a safe Labour seat to fight in the future.

According to the Queen's Speech, we shall face the more controvesial issues, like ID cards, early on. But one of the most potentially divisive has not yet received much attention – the future of the British nuclear deterrent. The Government has admitted that, with Trident about halfway through its life, the decision on any replacement needs to be taken in this Parliament. As a member of the Conservative Defence Team, I have drawn up a Motion reaffirming the principle that the UK should continue to possess nuclear weapons as long as others have them.

I do not doubt that Labour's Defence Secretary, John Reid, entirely agrees with my proposed Motion. Yet, how many Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs will go along with this? When big anti-nuclear demonstrations reappear, on the model of those in the 1960s and 1980s, we shall be in for exciting and impassioned debates. Don't miss them. They will show Parliament at its best.