New Forest East



Sunday Times – 26 June 2005

Michael Portillo’s case (‘Does Britain need nuclear missiles? No. Scrap them’, June19) is encapsulated in a single, shallow proposition:

"The case for Britain having an independent nuclear deterrent depended on the existence of the Soviet Union ... The Soviet Union collapsed long ago. There is no threat from China. The new nuclear weapons states ... do not have the capability to hit us".

This makes no more sense than to argue for the abolition of the Royal Navy in the absence of identifiable threats in the 19th century or, for that matter, the abandonment of any insurance policy because we cannot predict what mishaps and disasters fate holds in store.

After the First World War, there was so little evidence of a military threat that each of the armed services was preparing its contingency plans against an entirely different potential enemy. After the Second World War, there was an obvious Soviet threat but many of the conflicts which actually broke out caught us completely by surprise.

The lifespan of each generation of the nuclear deterrent is about 30 years. This is twice the period which encompassed the rise and fall of the Third Reich. To renounce Britain’s nuclear deterrent would be an act of utter recklessness.

Of course, such weapons are not a sufficient counter to all forms of threat, but without them the United Kingdom would find its potential opponents far more likely to become its actual enemies

Shadow Defence Minister
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA