Future of Nuclear Deterrent

Here is my speech in the debate on 17 January 2013

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): Reference was made earlier in the debate to the period of the Reagan-Gorbachev Administrations. General Secretary Gorbachev in the 1980s called for a nuclear-free world by 2000. Remember that? Of course, the Soviet Union ended and the world we live in, as many speakers have commented, is much more complicated now than it was at that time. None of us knows where we will be in 30 or 40 years, and the decisions that are to be taken make assumptions about a future that we cannot predict.

We have heard references in the debate also to the continuation of NATO. I am a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. I have serious doubts whether in the next 20 or 30 years the United States will give Europe a global commitment of extended deterrence in the way it did at the height of the cold war.

Nobody has so far mentioned China in the debate. China is modernising its military assets significantly. It has nuclear weapons. At some point this century it will become a global power with projection all round the world, not just within its own coasts and the seas off its coasts.

If we are looking at the future of the world, I do not think any of us can be very confident about what the outcome will be. What we do know is that the non-proliferation regime is under serious threat, not just from countries such as North Korea, which have left the NPT, but from countries that are still within the NPT, such as Iran, and other countries that will follow any decision to weaponise a nuclear capability by the Iranians at some point. In 15 or 20 years’ time, there could be 10, 15 or 20 more countries with nuclear weapons. The world that we are going into requires international action. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) mentioned the Labour party’s policy review in 1989. I was the secretary of that review, which changed our policy to deal with the realities that we were confronting at that time rather than the debate that had gone on theologically in the past.

We now need to make renewed efforts, and I wish the Minister and shadow Front Benchers would talk a little more about what role we can play with our nuclear weapons in facilitating new international disarmament negotiations, because they are not happening now. Despite President Obama’s Prague speech in 2009, the vision of a nuclear-free world is blocked because the Russians are not interested so long as missile defence is on the agenda. There is the danger of a proliferation of warheads to overcome missile defence if it is ever deployed. I conclude there to give others a chance. 

Before my speech I had intervened on the speech of the former Lib Dem Defence Minister Nick Harvey :

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if we move to some form of cruise missile-based nuclear weapons system, that would be destabilising internationally and positively dangerous?

Sir Nick Harvey: I am waiting for the Trident alternatives review, which is being conducted by the Cabinet Office and is looking at exactly those sorts of issues. When it reports, I look forward to coming back and debating them with the hon. Gentleman. As a considered study of exactly these sorts of issues is nearing its conclusion at the moment, the time to debate those details will be when the report has been published.

At the end of the debate I raised a point of order as follows

Mike Gapes: Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Given that the Government will publish—at least internally—and consider their review on the alternatives to Trident, perhaps the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr Dunne), who is in his place, will give the House a commitment that we will have the chance to debate the review in this House very soon.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Well, Mr Gapes, perhaps the Minister could do that, but I do not think he will. That is not a point of order. I would like to make progress with business, because I am sure there are not any other relevant or pertinent points of order to take this afternoon.

You can also watch it here it starts at 7hrs 3mins and 20 seconds  http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=12175

 

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