CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE (FRONT BENCH) – TRIDENT – 14 March 2007

[James Arbuthnot: ... Unilaterally disarming would not have any beneficial effect on non-proliferation. Nobody reduced the number of their warheads when we reduced ours to 200. We gave ourselves moral authority by doing that, but countries such as Iran and North Korea were interested in military authority, not moral authority. ... I strongly believe that the UK does not want to be dependent on others, even including the United States, for deterrence. For those reasons, on balance, I am inclined to support the proposal, but I am deeply troubled by it.]

Dr Julian Lewis: Before my right hon. Friend leaves that point, will he consider one other factor? How could this country engage in a conventional response to conventional aggression if the people who initiated that conventional aggression had even one or two mass destruction weapons, and we had been unwise enough to give up all of ours?

[Mr Arbuthnot: I was a grateful recipient of my hon. Friend's brilliant essay on nuclear deterrence, which partially persuaded me. For the reasons that I have given, I have decided to support the proposal. I am not inclined to take the risk of allowing the unilateral nuclear disarmament of this country to send us naked into the conference chamber, as Nye Bevan once put it.]

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[John Barrett: ... Tonight's decision on Trident will haunt the House if we get it wrong. ... The only reason we are being bounced into this decision is because of the current Prime Minister and his wish to leave the country's hands tied long after he has gone. It is not the submarines that are reaching the end of their shelf-life; it is the Prime Minister.]

Dr Lewis: Will the hon. Gentleman explain why, months before the Prime Minister made his statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he believed that we should keep the nuclear deterrent not only in the present Parliament, but in the long-term future, and why the defence White Paper, as long ago as 2003, made it abundantly clear that the decision would have to be taken in this Parliament? That was nothing to do with the Prime Minister leaving office.