CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE (FRONT BENCH) – TRIDENT REPLACEMENT – 6 June 2005

Dr Julian Lewis: Am I alone in having detected in the Secretary of State's first answer a slight contradiction? He quoted the manifesto as stating that his party believed in the continuation of the nuclear deterrent, but went on to say that no decision had been taken in principle on that very matter. The question that he was asked and on which my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) was right to press him was whether in principle the Government think that this country should continue to possess nuclear weapons as long as other countries have them. Do not the contributions of his colleagues the hon. Members for Bury, North (David Chaytor) and for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen) show the sort of difficulties that he will run into if he accepts such a principle? As for the Conservative position, I refer the Secretary of State to Early Day Motion 149, which enunciates that principle. Will he sign it and encourage his colleagues to sign it?

[The Secretary of State for Defence (Dr John Reid): I am sure that the whole nation is reassured by the fact that when it went to the polls assuming that there was no nuclear policy it could have referred to Early Day Motion 149, which outlines one. The hon. Gentleman has been a strong supporter of our independent nuclear deterrent over many years, and I have discussed many issues with him, but he perceives wrongly if he perceives a contradiction in my first two statements. I said, first, that our manifesto commits the Labour Government to the retention of our independent nuclear deterrent, and, secondly, that we had not taken a decision in principle about the replacement of the existing system because that decision, in principle and in practice, must await the outcome of our deliberations, considerations and analysis. I said that that would happen in the context of prevailing international conditions and our obligations under the NPT. He should therefore be in no doubt that the two statements are not contradictory in any way.]