DEFENCE – NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT – 7 June 2000

Dr Julian Lewis: I am delighted that the Minister [Peter Hain] is a multilateralist. Can he explain how he reconciles that with his continuing membership of the definitely unilateralist Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament?

[Mr Hain: I wondered when that would come up, but I am happy to respond. I remain a rank and file member of CND, which has played an honourable role in the cause of nuclear disarmament. The fact that the policy in the manifesto on which the Government were elected is not unilateralist is not the point, and I shall not apologise for that membership, certainly not to the hon. Gentleman.]

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Dr Lewis: I thank the Minister [Peter Hain] for his courtesy in giving way again. I appreciate that he would like to see a world free of nuclear weapons. We are also signed up to article 6 of the non-proliferation treaty, which requires general and complete conventional disarmament as well. Does the Minister not accept, however, that the effect of having a nuclear-free world while retaining a conventionally armed world might be to make the world safe once again for prolonged all-out conventional warfare between large powers that are currently deterred by stable nuclear deterrence?

[Mr Hain: The hon. Gentleman is a nuclear weapons fanatic who presumably wants virtually every country in the world to have a capability. If we followed his line of thinking, that might well happen.]

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Dr Lewis rose

[Mike Gapes: I shall now give way to a man who has not changed his position, but I shall comment on that when I reply to his intervention.]

Dr Lewis: I thank the hon. Gentleman for skilfully anticipating my first point, which is that whereas the Liberals and many Labour Members, such as him, have changed their position, some of us have been saying the same thing all along. However, is not the hon. Gentleman telling the House that when we faced a threat from a nuclear super-power, he wanted to give up, unconditionally, our nuclear deterrent, whereas now, when we are not facing such a threat, he wants to keep it?