Copeland MP’s Speech to Parliament in Support of the Preservation of National Security

West Cumbrian MP Jamie Reed has spoken out in Parliament toTrident support a motion relating to the renewal of the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

In his speech, Jamie Reed reached out to those who do not support the retention and renewal of the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

The Copeland MP, who is a member of the UK delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, set out the argument in favour of multilateralism, explaining that “we can and should only divest ourselves of our nuclear weapons when those who seek to do us harm divest themselves of their nuclear arsenals too. The arguments for a multilateral approach to the UK’s nuclear deterrent, our obligations under the non-proliferation treaty, our responsibilities towards our allies, global security, and more, are compelling“.

Following his speech, Jamie Reed voted in support of the motion, which is in line with Labour Party Policy, and the motion passed by 472 votes to 117.

Read Jamie Reed’s Speech in Full:

So it is that I, as a democratic socialist, support every word of the motion before us in the name of the Prime Minister, because the truth is that the preservation of our national security does not wear the colours of any political party.

I begin by reaching out to all those in our country who do not support the retention and renewal of the UK’s nuclear deterrent. This is a frequently polarised debate, but I want to say to those who oppose renewal that I understand how and why they feel the way that they do. I understand how and why their opposition to nuclear weapons motivates them to vote and act in certain ways, and I understand their fears. Like those people, like every defence worker and trade union representative of defence workers, and like the people who live in the communities where those jobs are so valued, I hope for a world free of nuclear weapons. I wish that we could uninvent those weapons of mass destruction, but we cannot, and will never be able to do so.

The world is an increasingly difficult and challenging place. The complexities we face in international affairs, foreign relations and diplomatic matters are increasing, not receding, and even if a mood swept our country that saw unilateral nuclear disarmament as desirable, I would argue against such a move. Multilateralism is the only way forward for our country. We can and should only divest ourselves of our nuclear weapons when those who seek to do us harm divest themselves of their nuclear arsenals too. The arguments for a multilateral approach to the UK’s nuclear deterrent, our obligations under the non-proliferation treaty, our responsibilities towards our allies, global security, and more, are compelling.

An American diplomat told me recently about an emerging view on the left and right of American politics that the United States is tired of both fighting and paying for Europe’s safety. American politicians, in Congress and elsewhere, increasingly think that their European partners are not pulling their weight. There is already a long-term diplomatic pivot taking place in US foreign policy. Other alliances outside of Europe are being sought and established. That is the right of the US, but we risk the strategic relationship that we have enjoyed with it if we conspicuously fail to take the necessary steps to maintain our own nuclear deterrent.

Alongside this, we have a belligerent Russia on the borders of the European Union—a Russia that is now not only replacing its nuclear fleet but renewing it with a new programme of research, development and manufacture for a new generation of nuclear missiles. More concerning is the fact the Russian military has changed its nuclear engagement protocols. The new protocols permit the use of nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict in order to achieve “de-escalation”—an incredible proposition, but true none the less. Is this the time, with a weaker EU, an exasperated United States, and a sabre-rattling Russia, for the United Kingdom to abandon its nuclear deterrent? No, it is not.

Margaret Ferrier

Obviously the hon. Gentleman supports the renewal of Trident. Has he any idea why his colleagues in the Scottish Parliament do not?

Jamie Reed

That is a matter for my friends in the Scottish Parliament.

It is the policy of the Labour party to retain and renew our nuclear deterrent. As a Labour Member of Parliament, steeped in my party’s traditions, proud of its achievements, and excited by its possibilities, I will support my party’s policy tonight. But for the first time ever, we have witnessed the leader of the Labour party stand at the Dispatch Box and argue against the policy of the party that he leads. That is unprecedented. Moreover, this reckless, juvenile, narcissistic irresponsibility makes me fearful for the future of the party that I love. The sheer stupidity of this approach should be dragged out into the light and seen for what it is, because renewal is not only Labour party policy but the settled will of the country, and every parliamentary decision relating to it will have been taken by 2020.

Further to that, Lord Kinnock has repeatedly warned—and it looks as though he will have to say this to the Labour party for the second time in my lifetime—that

“the British people will not vote for unilateral disarmament. And that reality has to be dealt with.”

A policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament is a bar to being elected. A democratic socialist party with this policy can campaign to rid this country of poverty, to restore the national health service, to rebuild our economy, and to make sure that every man, woman and child in every community in our country enjoys equality of opportunity—but campaigning is all that it will ever do, because a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament will ensure that we will never govern. This logic is inescapable, and the leader of the Labour party knows it.

Chris Law

There is a little flaw in the hon. Gentleman’s argument. The SNP has 56 out of 59 seats here and in the Scottish Government, and we all hold to the position of unilateral disarmament. To give him some hope, we are doing what he hopes his party can do in future.

Jamie Reed

I commend the hon. Gentleman for that audacious and fundamentally incorrect intervention. I really do applaud his audacity.

The logic is inescapable, and the leader of the Labour party knows it. So we are forced to accept that the refusal to support the established policy of the Labour party and to acknowledge the achievements of the greatest Labour Government is not just a knowing embrace of electoral defeat but a real, studied and determined desire to split the Labour party. The manifesto I stood on at the last election pledged to renew our nuclear deterrent. The manifesto that I will stand on at the next election will pledge to renew our nuclear deterrent, whether the leader of the Labour party likes it or not. That will be true for hundreds of colleagues on the Labour Benches.

I urge all colleagues on the Labour Front Bench to respect the democratic processes of the Labour party, to respect the conference decision of the Labour party, and to vote with the established policy of the Labour party, and if they cannot do that, to return to the Back Benches.

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