Ban Nuclear weapons to pay for Covid19 recovery - Video from GLD 2020 Vision Conference
By Baroness Sue Miller Lib Dem & Kate Hudson CND General Secretary in GLD Challenge magazine 2020-21
Ban Nuclear weapons to pay for Covid19 recovery -
Video from GLD 2020 Vision Conference June 2020
Speakers: Baroness Sue Miller Lib Dem & Kate Hudson CND General Secretary
2.30pm-4.00pm Saturday 20th June
Central Hall at 2020GLDVision Conference
Chairs: GLD Chair, Keith Melton & GLD Exec member, Cllr Pippa Heylings
Chat Moderators: George Miles and Ross Benzie
Transcript edited by Anna Beria
Sat 20th June 2.30pm
Ban Nuclear weapons to pay for Covid19 recovery
Lib Dem Baroness Sue Miller
CND General Secretary Kate Hudson
INTRO to "BAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS TO PAY FOR COVID19 RECOVERY"
This session, which took place on 20th June 2020, saw Baroness Sue Miller (LibDem) and CND General Secretary Kate Hudson give their views on the very real threats facing our country and the world at large, of which climate breakdown and pandemics are the more immediate ones, and argue that the huge sums being committed to the replacement of Trident submarines, the maintenance of a national nuclear capability and the development of new, more sophisticated nuclear weapons, would be better spent to help the country, the health service and the economy recover from the current pandemic and prepare ahead for the next one.
A discussion that has not lost its relevance today as the cost of the Covid-19 pandemic is becoming increasigly obvious and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has come into force, having recently been ratified by fifty signatories.
Keith Melton Karen ... earlier on today Pippa did ... send me a note to say can you send me what you've made to introduce the session, just in case you drop out, and I said, "Well, I think I'm going to wing it." So I haven't made any notes about introducing the session because this really is not something I have had to think long and hard about -- it's something that comes from the heart and nuclear weapons I've always… so I'm declaring my position straight away ... and what I thought would be useful would be to have a discussion about the costs of nuclear weapons and the costs of environmental issues and to see whether it wasn't time actually to stop spending money on something against a threat that was becoming very, very unreal and start spending money on threats that are being seen as very, very real -- both Coronavirus issues that we've clearly fallen fowl of, but also the existential threat of climate change, and I think it's about time we changed it, so I've got two speakers who were going to come to the Green Liberal Democrat Conference last year, unfortunately couldn't make it, for one reason or another ... and I'm going to let them introduce themselves as we go along, and I'm going to introduce I'm going to give Kate Hudson, general secretary of CND, the first option to introduce herself. Kate over to you.
Kate Hudson Thanks very much Keith and thanks for inviting me to participate in this discussion. I'm really looking forward to it because of course these are really the crucial issues facing humanity ... the pandemic and then of course climate, the climate disaster and not forgetting nuclear weapons! We still are in the situation where the Bulletin of Atomic Scientistsi earlier this year, when it was setting the hands of the Doomsday Clock it set them closer than they've ever been to human extinction: 100 seconds to midnight because of the climate and the nuclear weapons threats. So we face those twin existential threats, we're seeing the impact of both of those things, and even here in Britain, where we may think climate's not such an issue, we see the terrible impact of flooding on homes and communities and so on, and of course the pandemic now has brought all these interlocking crises really into sharp focus by putting the economic crisis that we're entering on top of that and really hitting people hard, and I think what's really shocked people is how unprepared our Health Service was to meet the pandemic crisis and I think if it had just come out of the blue and no-one had ever thought that pandemics were going to be a problem, okay, maybe you could excuse that, somehow, or find it understandable, but as we know for the past couple of decades pandemic threat has been identified as a tier-one security threat. I mean by the Coalition Government in 2010, for example, that identified the pandemic threat as a tier-one threat, and nuclear weapons threats were actually a tier-two threat but we've had this situation where the NHS has been underfunded, as a tier-one threat, dealing with the pandemic, but nuclear weapons have had 205 billion pounds committed to the replacement of the current system, and that's a shocking misallocation of national resources, really really shocking, and I think we all pretty much understand that now. And of course, Britain, in insisting upon continuing along the path of nuclear weapons, is very much out of step with global opinion and I was really delighted to see on the Conference website the reference to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, because while Britain is going ahead with this colossal spending, the overwhelming majority of states in the UN General Assembly and so on, want to see a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Now they have gone ahead with that, it's on the table in the UN. There are currently 32 … 38 countries that have ratified it. They just needed another 12 for it to come into force, but our government has repeatedly said "No, we're not going to sign it; we don't want to have anything to do with it; we will never sign it." Well, that's just sheer craziness and I know that we are all very concerned to deal with this existential threat, and the treaty offers us a real multilateral approach to dealing with this, because it's on the table for everybody to sign, for all states to sign up to it, and in fact Britain could sign as a nuclear state putting in place a programme of how it would disarm. It's not "you've got to disarm now before you can have anything to do with it"; [it] can express its support and work with UN institutions to produce a programme and a timetable for disarmament. So, when we're thinking about what to spend, how to spend it, we know for example that because … that money could build 120 hospitals and also fund 150 000 nurses; that would be one very good use. It could also equally provide solar panels in every home; it could provide wind turbines to power every UK household; many, many other things to deal with the real existential terrible threats that we face, so ... I hope that's useful information to be going on with and I look forward to the rest of the discussion. Thank you very much.
Keith Melton Okay. Thank you very much for a good brief introduction and I'm going to hand straight over to Sue to introduce herself and try and give a perspective from the Liberal Democrats' point of view and where we are and where we ought to be and where we might have been in the past.
Sue Miller Thank you very much, Keith. And first of all, congratulations to GLD for getting this conference together, and to you for organizing this session because it really is very, very timely indeed. I think that we are at a particularly interesting moment because what the Covid threat has done is to really establish in the minds of our populations, and the populations of nuclear states, that security isn't anymore going to be in the form of nuclear weapons, or weapons of mass destruction, and up until now it's been people in the developing world who've seen death come from disease; in our lifetime, in nuclear weapon states, by and large, we've been very lucky: we've been vaccinated, polio had gone, smallpox had gone, we've not faced this sort of thing. But of course, as all members of GLD will know, we have faced lots of other threats of the "green" nature, so insect numbers plummeting, showing the ill health of our ecosystems, we've seen … one of the most foresighted people about this actually was ex-President Gorbachev from the Soviet Union, who founded his Water for Peaceii movement because he saw that the lack of resources like water would be the source of future conflicts. So, I think we're at a bit of a turning point because of the fact that our populations will now not see security in the same way as they have in the past. I think already this year we have seen them realizing that actually investing in those things that give you a healthy ecosystem that enable you to invest in the health of people is going to be a lot more worthwhile than investing in something that, as all governments admit, are not there for use, and if they were used, well, we'd all be wiped out anyway. So, why do the government persist, in Britain in particular, with going on with it? Well, of course a lot of it is to do with Britain's place in the world: if we have the nuclear weapons we feel we're going to get a permanent seat at the Security Council and that's important to the government to be seen as still a world power, but I think that one of the things that has also happened, and this actually also ties in with the Black Lives Matter movement, is that the UK really needs to move on and stop harking back to Empire days. And I just want to read a quick quote from Martin Kettle, writing in the Guardian last week, who said "It's bad enough that it means we don't understand how others see us, it's even worse that it stops us from becoming the kind of country we could be" and I think that's the crucial point: we need to become the sort of country we could be, and the UN treaty -- commonly known as "the ban treaty" -- that Kate referred to, does give us the opportunity to join with the other 122 countries in the world; Britain actually could be the first country to renounce nuclear weapons, or the first country of the current nuclear weapons states. The other thing the government always falls back on is saying "Well, we don't want to support the ban treaty because actually it's the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty that counts". Well, the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty has actually failed under Art. 6, which is the one where nuclear weapon states are supposed to disarm. It's failed in the sense that there are countries that do have nuclear weapons that we know, like Israel, who don't belong to it; it's failed because India, for example, who has nuclear weapons, hasn't played their part and nor did the States because they actually really colluded to move India further into nuclear things. So, the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty could offer a way forward but it hasn't because the nuclear weapon states always managed to block it. So, where are the Liberal Democrats on all of this? Well, in 2017 we had a paper called Towards a Nuclear Weapons-free Future,iii which my attitude to it couldn't have been better summarized than by my friend and colleague Tony Grieves, and he put it this way, on that occasion, he said: "This paper proposes a policy that's laughable. It calls for a nuclear weapons-free world and does nothing at all to begin to achieve that." Tony's always very good at putting things in a nutshell and I think he put in a nutshell this time.
At the moment we have got a motion to conference, drafted by David Grace, which is up for signatures. It calls on support for the ban treaty and I think there's a link to it on GLD website, so members can see what it actually says, but if we get enough signatures and if it's accepted as a motion for debate by Conference Committee, I believe in the context of what we've just been through, with the pandemic on and is still going through, in the sense that a lot of people now understand the UK needs to move on, I think we could actually be the first party in Britain - apart from … well, the SNP have obviously really signed up to a nuclear-weapons-free world, as have the Greens -- but of the three other parties we actually need to get on board with moving Britain into the 21st century and getting rid of nuclear weapons. So, if as a result of today some of you listening and watching this, or hopefully all of you listening and watching this, feel that you can sign that motion, that will be a really good first step on the road.
Keith Melton I wasn't watching my own chairing of myself! I'd muted my button so I didn't interrupt the flow of what Sue was saying and then forgot to switch it back on again, I do apologize. Yeah, the resolution that you referred to, Sue, is actually… I think the copy of it is in the chat now, so if anybody wants to read that through, I think Steve Bolter put it in the chat. George has just asked if it can go on the website and it certainly should be there if it's not already; so, it is something that we need to get as widely read as possible. What I'm interested in hearing, I think, from both Kate and Sue, is how you think the general populace would react if this party were to come out very strongly against nuclear weapons in the way that the Liberal Party was perhaps 30 odd years ago. How do you think people will react? Sue?
Sue Miller Well, of course that's the issue that the leadership of the party are always very frightened of: that we'll be seen again as the sandals, tree hugger brigade which was when I joined the party at the time of Greenham Commoniv and so on. So, actually it was one of the things that made me join the party; not the party's stance on it, but because of the need for political action. And the truth is that people of our way of thinking that it's time Britain moved on, that there are other, more important things to invest in… actually at the moment, if they don't live in Scotland, they really don't have much of a political home to go to. So, I think we should be brave. I imagine it will be something that makes our leadership nervous but I think even they can see that if you take the example of New Zealand at the moment, they have always been in the forefront of fighting nuclear proliferation and very pro-disarmament. [New] Zealand actually are now seen as a great example; they're not seen as a laughable weak country. They've invested in things that they believe in, and they're now being held up as an example of the way to go. Now they've had to stop people buying houses there because actually everyone wants to leave and live there. We could make the UK like that, if we chose to… I mean, I still find it jaw-droppingly immoral that we could be spending the billions we're planning to on Trident when we're not intending to invest anything like that in either education, healthcare or green living.
Keith Molton Thank you. One of the things you said there just took me back a little bit… Took me back in time -- I don't mean surprise me. The leadership is always worried about how the nuclear weapons issue might reflect in votes, but I in 1983, when I was still standing as a parliamentary candidate, I had my best ever response in the 1983 election as a Liberal who always had said that I'm a unilateralist, and I managed to get 25% of the vote in a Conservative seat and came second at that time. So, that's a lot better than the sort of percentages we're getting in a lot of seats around the country now. So, I really don't think we can do much worse than we've been doing recently and I think it's time we were a bit more ambitious. Perhaps Kate, you could also take a view, a more general view, of how the country as a whole might see a revived anti-nuclear Liberal Democrat Party?
Kate Hudson Happy to have a view on this. I think a number of parties that I can think of, not only the leadership of your own, have this idea that to get rid of nuclear weapons will be a vote loser and generally speaking they hark back to the 1980s. Now, whether it was that that was the big vote issue at that time or other things, like the Falklands war and so on, I'm not absolutely convinced, but the fact is we are not now in the 1980s, the cold war is over, and if you look at many of the opinion polls over the last 15 years since the question of Trident replacement first came up in Parliament, on balance they have, in their majority, shown a majority against replacing Trident, and particularly so when the question of the cost of it, and what that might be an opportunity cost for, was also put into the framework. I think the Mail on Sunday did a fantastic one. Yes, nothing to do with CND -- the Mail on Sunday showed that 66% of the population were opposed to the replacement of Trident, and if you go on then to look at the breakdown -- they always have age and demographic breakdowns in these opinion polls -- you can see that the overwhelming majority of the younger generation were absolutely opposed to nuclear weapons, to the extent that they just think it's some barmy idea that the older generation had and they can't see why anyone would want it. So, and those people are coming through up into society, into opinion-forming places, into the workplace and so on, into politics, we hope, expressing those views. So, I think to cling on to that kind of idea that the great British public wants nuclear weapons, I think that's a misunderstanding of what society is like out there, and Sue referred to the Black Lives Matter movement and how overwhelmingly young people are coming out together. It's not… it's a black-led movement but there are so many young people, black, white, everybody coming out and that is the younger generation: they want to see different things. I think the pandemic will certainly increasingly show that people want a new type of society and they can see that it's possible.
In terms of the LibDems specifically, one of my strongest memories of Lib Dem politics was what your former leader Nick Clegg, when he was in the leaders' debates in 2010, that election… how strong he was on the question of Trident, being opposed to nuclear weapons. I don't know the exact detail thing, but he came over as having a very strong anti-Trident message and it kind of transformed a lot of the debates in that election, and that was an incredibly popular position that he put so well. So, if I were you, I would seize it with both hands because it just makes absolute sense and people are open to new ways of doing things. So, on your thing about your website… The problem was the old normal or something. What's the new normal? The new normal has to be a society without nuclear weapons, dealing with climate change and stamping out racism. All the things that the young people will embrace.
Keith Melton Thank you very much. Pippa, do you want to come in at that point and say a few words from your point of view?
Pippa Heylings Yes, no. I think it's fascinating… I think this link which is often sort of through the United Nations, there was a big push as well in terms of the link between peace building and environmental action, and that was a decade ago but I think even now, hearing you and just knowing that this is the moment where we can work on that and looking at the Q&A that's coming through, there are some… there's a nice cluster and I'd like to hear from both of you what are the options? if it's a pathway from being a nuclear state into being a non-nuclear [one] and so somebody's asking what is the pathway on that and is the Non-Proliferation Treaty saying you could then go on this pathway? Is it that there's more spent on other conventional weapons or other ways of dealing with conflict, or is it actually we should just be spending it on other priorities that you've already mentioned in your talks? And then somebody also said: or is there a real option for it being a safe nuclear world? And the fact that we don't really have anybody here representing multilateralism, and therefore shouldn't we be looking at that view? But I'd like to bring that cluster of questions to both of you,
Keith Melton Kate and Sue, feel free to unmute yourself and chip in.
Kate Hudson I don't mind. I'm just struck by this: why isn't there a multilateralist on this panel? I am a multilateralist, I'm also happened [sic] to want Britain to kick that off by disarming first, but CND has always been a multilateral organization. We want Britain to be part of the global abolition of nuclear weapons, and this unilateralism or multilateralism, we really see that as a false polarization. So, I'm for everyone; we're not a NIMBY organization; it's not just 'get rid of Britain's and then forget about it'. We want global abolition of nuclear weapons and that is the purpose of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Hand over to Sue now.
Sue Miller Yes, I mean… I think that when we say 'unilateralist' it's because we do expect Britain to take some dramatic step now to give up Trident. Will that make us under the threat and weaker, and more under threat? Well, no. Because it's actually not an independent nuclear deterrent anyway. I think it's quite a threat that we would be so reliant on the [United] States for having such a system anyway, under some illusion that it's independent. But I think those are, as Kate says, it's a false choice. I'd be interested to hear from in a minute who said he's a multilateralist ... and he's very articulate on everything really, Martin, I've always thought that. But multilateralism I think is within our grasp with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons because it lays out a clear pathway for countries to follow. It's very clear about what is and isn't acceptable. And I know that the argument from the leadership, not just of our party but of the government, will be: "Well, it doesn't really matter what Britain does because the [United] States and Russia are still going to have so many weapons", but it does matter in the sense that somebody actually of the nuclear weapon states has to start underlining the fact that the treaty is serious and that's why I think this link back to Black Lives Matter and racial justice and just… global justice is important because 122 countries have signed that treaty, and are we going to stand there as nine nuclear weapon states and say those 122 don't count, their views don't matter? Because that's actually what we're saying by ignoring the treaty and refusing even to engage with it, really. So, I think it is a false choice but I think it's where the battle lines will also be with actually getting the UK government to give it up. But given how fast U-turns can be at the moment, if the population really did turn against having Trident, I don't think the government would stand out against them. So, I think it's a really good moment to push as well.
Pippa Heylings And before, sorry, just before maybe we go to Martin or others on that false choice or not, what do you think would be elements of that pathway? One is not replacing, but is it more conventional weapons, or types of military, strategic development, or is it actually just moving to these other priorities that we've been talking about?
Sue Miller Well, I guess you have to weigh up the risks of… what are the risks to the population if you're the government, and as we've seen from the pandemic, one of the risks is actually from disease; another of the risks is from catastrophic drought and food security issues; those are the sorts of things I think we should be investing in. However, if the price of giving up Trident is that the MOD has to feel that a bit more investments [is] going into conventional weapons, and that's a sort of security blanket that will enable people to give up nuclear weapons, well I'd accept that price. Because I think that people will want to see that we still have a strong defence force. What's so unacceptable about nuclear weapons is that it's not really… there's no way that you can use them without it now becoming a global disaster, and for… much worse, but for the next round if everybody upgrades them, as they're talking about, there's going to be lower grade ones which makes the possibility of actually using them a more real threat, and then there's this talk of the hypersonic ones which will arrive before you even know it. So, there's every sort of new development in the field of nuclear weapons… it's really bad news and can only ever make us more insecure; and that's barring even accidents and misunderstandings politically.
Keith Melton Thank you. I've just been watching the chat and I noticed Laura Sykes's comment: "I am also a multilateralist, but am prepared to be convinced to change my mind". I'm delighted to hear that Laura, but it does make me realize that I need to say that the resolution is not to do with unilateralism at all. It doesn't identify any kind of unilateral stand. It's simply suggesting that we really ought to pay attention to the treaty and sign the treaty so that we are in a position to take a multilateral way forward. So, although I declared myself as a unilateralist at the beginning, I wanted to make it clear where I stood and where I have always stood. The resolution itself and taking that forward to the Party's Conference doesn't mean that it's a unilateralist resolution at all. The other thing that I think we need to think about this afternoon, and it's no coincidence that this session was set on the same day as the Q&A session for the leadership contenders, I think there has been a change in the way our party thinks about these things. I think there is a change in the way that the country is seeing issues and that's been apparent from the way people have looked about, and asked about air pollution and so on. And I think it's up to our leaders to perhaps take the lead in changing opinions, and it's up to our leaders to change Laura's mind about it, rather than Laura to change the leader's mind about it. That's the way I'm thinking ... I don't know if that's helpful. We don't have more questions coming into the Q&A at the moment, I don't think.
Pippa Heylings I think there was just a question about understanding how much was being spent. A clarification on that?
Keith Melton okay. Would you like to pick up on that and try and put things into a ballpark that somehow relates to the sort of expenditure ... I think Ed [Davey] came up with a plan the other day to spend 150 billion on environmental issues. Would the nuclear weapons programme pay for that and over how many years?
Kate Hudson Yeah, well, I did actually answer that, I don't know where my answer went to, but I responded to the questioner, but just to… I mean, sometimes there's a bit of a debate about the actual cost of replacing Trident and the government says "Oh no! It's only 40 billion, or something" Well, just to go through how CND has arrived at 205 billion -- and by the way, all the figures we have are the result of information given in parliament, usually as a result of parliamentary questions and so on. So, manufacturing the four submarines they're going to be called Dreadnaught submarines -- the Dreadnought Classv -- the initial figure is 31 billion with a contingency of 10 billion. We know from parliamentary information, like the public accounts committee and so on, that they're already overspending on their projections. Then there's 350 million on a missile extension program (that's the life of the missiles); four billion on replacement warheads; infrastructure capital costs (that's the bases and so on where they're kept and built and so on) four billion; and then the big figure which is in-service costs is 142 billion. So, okay, maybe it's 40 to 50 billion to build the submarines, but you can't just look at that. You have to factor in the lifetime costs and we have calculated them on the basis of parliamentary information as 142 billion. Then there's conventional forces directly assigned to support Trident. That's another one billion; and then decommissioning (because you can't just think nothing's going to happen to them when they reach the end of their shelf life) that's 13 billion. So, in total that's 205 billion.
And yes, there are many examples of things you could spend the money on. I've talked about the hospitals and nurses, and so on. So, but we're also looking for example at the housing question. My husband and I were walking in the park this morning and we saw a homeless person lying there on the grass with his bags, and so on. We thought, "My God, does that mean that they're kicking people out of the hostels and hotels that they've been accommodated in? Well, I don't know whether that's the case or not, but that will be mooted at some point. The money spent on Trident replacement could pay for three million affordable new homes, and there's a terrible need for homes and housing at the moment; and then education: tuition fees for four million students; and in terms of bringing up the opportunities for people on the poorer end of the scale, that would be a fantastic sort of social up-levelling for all the different communities in our country. It could build 30,000 new primary schools, for example. So, there are huge numbers of things, not to mention flood defences, and so many different things. So, obviously you couldn't have everything -- you'd have to choose, but what a fantastic opportunity to be able to really put resources where it counts for people. Someone in the chat, or on the Q&A, was talking about dealing with the threats of cyber-attack, and other things to do with our security are legitimate, obviously. And in those risk assessments, where I said the pandemic was a tier-one risk in the risk assessment, so too was cyberwarfare, as well as climate change and terrorism, and other things that we would all recognize as 21st century threats. So, I think that completely reframing government priorities and policies just has to be our top priority.
Keith Melton Do you want to pick up on the costing issues, Sue?
Sue Miller Sorry, I just got diverted by Leon's comment about ... a very good comment in the chat about chemical and biological weapons and the fact they're banned, and it's completely illogical as to why a weapon of mass destruction such as nuclear isn't one of the ones [that] were banned. Well, historically we know that's because the big powers had them. What I'm struggling with, is with… there's quite a lot of discussion on the chat now about the incoherence… about the intellectual position between multilateralism and unilateralism. The way I feel about it now is that, actually, that is quite an old argument. I can understand that Britain giving up Trident now is a unilateralist move, but in a sense it's not at all because 122 other countries feel strongly about this. They've proposed a treaty when 50 of them sign, nuclear weapons will actually be illegal under international law. That's a lot different than the position we were in in the '80s, when people who proposed giving up Cruisevi, or whatever it was at the time, were called 'unilateralists'. I think times have just so much moved on that the way we should be discussing it now is -- those that actually want to abide by international law and those who do not.
Keith Melton Yeah, okay, thank you. First of all, let me just move the goal post slightly. I gather Martin Horwood is able and willing to speak and we need to facilitate that, so can I pass that through to be facilitated. Then we have a question… is it from Jason [Billin?], did you say, Pippa?
Pippa Heylings Yes, chair. Thanks very much Keith. Martin if you… oh you're there! Great, fantastic, that's good -- you put your hand up. And yeah, so… Jason's question really is about if we were to decide to do this, that we really wanted as Lib Dems, and as Green Lib Dems, to get the UK to sign the treaty, what is it from the Green Lib Dem side really that we would do in terms of campaigning? What would be the real message around that? That's Jason's, but perhaps we hear from Martin first who's again sort of discussing whether that happens and then we come to Jason's question and that's particularly I think for Sue, this question.
Keith Melton Martin, you're muted.
Martin Horwood Sorry, I was looking forward to being a panellist and just lobbing stuff into the Q&A I didn't realise I was going to be brought in. But just to answer some of the points, I think, Sue says it's about whether or not you abide by international law, but of course that's an awkward question to ask at the moment because we have not only the United States which has had a perennial problem with international law, but quite clearly Russia and China are just disregarding international law as well, in various places, and a whole string of other states that are threatening to do so. And this doesn't seem to me to be the moment to be taking new unilateral steps in any regard. I think we need a massive, massive effort, because it's going the wrong way, to reinforce multilateral processes and UN processes. And actually, although the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons of course has been a UN process, it still hasn't been ratified. I think it's been ratified by ... the website says 81 signatories and 38 State parties. So, it's not… and that includes no nuclear states at all, and by signing it you take a unilateral step, I'm afraid, if you're a nuclear state, there's no getting away from this. The Treaty's Art. 4 obliges you to decommission your nuclear weapons and start that process immediately. So, it is unquestionably a unilateral step. There is no condition applied on any other nuclear state to do likewise, and it seems to me we're in a very dangerous moment internationally and, whatever arguments make sense -- and they, I think, they do make sense: you've made a very cogent case in terms of Covid and in terms of the economy and so on, and the sheer obscene cost of these things -- but in terms of the international relations perspective this seems like a very bad idea. And of course, people can point to the one state that has actually given up nuclear weapons in Europe, and that's Ukraine, and I'm afraid look what happened: the force projection they were able to exercise was nil and Putin has annexed part of their country and is in the process of essentially causing a sort of local civil war in another part. So, the one example of a state recently that has given up nuclear weapons is not very promising.
Keith Melton Okay. Well, that's an interesting view. The sort of argument that I would like to apply at that point is actually to start looking at England, and I think specifically England rather than United Kingdom, but we are a very small island off the mainland of Europe; we are disassociating ourselves with Europe (some of the government would claim that we're not doing that but we're just getting out of a club, but we're certainly seeming to disassociate ourselves with Europe at the moment) so, we're not wanting to be part of that wider unit; we've got a population well under 1% of the world population; we've handled Covid extraordinarily badly in relation to most international governments, apart from the United States and Brazil, and I think it's time that we actually took our place as a minnow of a country rather than trying to claim some kind of imperialist, world superpower that we tried to project in the '60s and '70s. We aren't, I don't think we ever have been since the 19th century, a superpower and I think we need to tailor our clothes according to the cloth that we actually have. I wasn't intending to be argumentative, really, I'm just sharing it. Kate I'm sorry you're one of our speakers…
Kate Hudson to respond… I mean, I absolutely agree that Britain needs to find a new role in the world and needs to stop harking back to some imperial past. I mean, as far as I'm concerned, and most people these days, imperialism is not a good thing and we can see in terms of the present protests and ferment internationally the terrible legacy of that sort of thing, so we need to put that out of our minds. But you… I think what I'm not agreeing with, is you calling Britain a 'minnow' because, whether we like it or not, we are one of the richest countries in the world -- although you wouldn't necessarily think it, going out into some of our towns and cities and the poverty there and so on -- we're an incredibly rich country and we have a massive spending on weapons. We are one of the highest weapons spenders in the world, so it's kind of getting that understanding right: yes, we are a wealthy and powerful country; we are not an imperial power, nor should we be an imperial power, but we should think about what we want to do for good in the world. And if we want to be respected (all countries I'm sure want to be respected) then we need to do things which contribute to the net global good, and I mean, someone in the chat said, "What kind of arguments do you hear in favour of nuclear weapons?" I think Sue touched on it earlier… this whole kind of thing of status Blair was big on, 'need to be a heavy hitter and punch above our weight' and all that, he said "pay the blood price", I think as well, all sorts of things like that. But we are one of nine countries that has nuclear weapons. All the rest of the countries in the world who don't have them want the nine countries to get rid of them, to the extent that half the globe is already self-organized in nuclear-weapons-free zones. That's how strongly they feel about it. So, one way in which Britain could earn the respect of, and have high status in the world, would be to begin the process of getting rid of its nuclear weapons and say, "Yeah, Britain does want to play a role in the world. We are wealthy; we have all kinds of resources and expertise; we want to use that for the global good and we don't want our status, so-called, to be based on the capacity to exterminate millions of people." So, I think we need to recognize what we have going for us and then behave accordingly in a way which sustains peace and justice globally.
Keith Melton Thank you. I have just noticed that Matthew Holbert says, "Gosh, the chair makes it sound like all we can do is manage decline. Defeatist language if ever there was." I'm not being defeatist, Matthew. What I'm trying to do is to say that our success in the world is associated with exactly what Kate has just said: that we need to change the world for the better rather than living in the past. Sue, you wanted to come in that question as well.
Sue Miller Thank you. Yes, I just wanted to reply to Martin's point (and good to see you Martin). I think saying "now is not the moment" is the council of despair, because actually at the moment the treaties are failing. There is (unless something momentous happens) there's going to be a huge modernization program; the treaties are failing and now is exactly the moment where we have to change the paradigm. There isn't going to be a better moment than after the pandemic, at the moment when people realize that global justice is about not facing people with the sorts of threats that nuclear weapons produce. Now, I know that you stand open to accusations of naivety for that because then you'll say "Well, the Chinese will invade, and the Russians have invaded," but I think that, on the whole, if you look at the evidence, the military when they talk about these threats, or the UK military (haven't heard the military of other countries talking about it), don't see nuclear weapons as useful. They see actually the biggest threat from cyber issues, not from nuclear issues. So, that again begs the question why are we going to invest in upgrading our nuclear weapons when actually, probably, with any half-decent hacker from an attic in Shanghai can disable them anyway, and that's the sort of threat that people are looking at now. So, I still see this as being the moment that we really have to move on this, and I'm surprised in one way, Martin, that you still see it like this because it is harking back to the '70s and '80s, and seeing the world in that context.
Pippa Heylings Can I just sort of come in here. It's, I think, the UN Security Council, after much debate, finally declared climate change as a security threat and that was by all of the security advisers in all of the states that were signing up there. So, I think also we have cyber but also as we're looking… there are these other huge existential threats as well that we need to be able to look at how we release the amount of funding and political will to address them, ahead of time as well.
Keith Melton Thank you, Pippa. I'm not sure… do we have any fresh questions that we haven't …
Pippa Heylings Yes, we've come back to Jason's question, which was, "How would Green Lib Dems campaign for this? If we were saying this is what we should do, which is to sign the treaty as UK, what do you see as Green Lib Dems' niche in terms of campaigning for this?
Sue Miller Well, I guess this… until we get Conference to sign up to it being core Lib Dem policy, it's going to be pretty hard for Green Lib Dems to move anywhere meaningful on it. So, I think the first issue is to get Conference (a) to decide to debate it, and then we need to win that debate and say, "Well, we need to move on and take the money that we would have spent on Trident on green issues and on health, and on healthier food systems, and all of those things that Green Liberal Democrats have signed up to do". So, I think it's a very logical campaign for Green Liberal Democrats. It's where we've been coming from for a long time about use of resources. And you cannot have a healthy human race without a healthy whole ecosystem. And actually, one of the more moving people I've met on this whole issue was the young chap from Kazakhstan who was born with massive deformities because of the nuclear testing that was done in that country. And of course, Kazakhstan did choose to give up its nuclear weapons and it's one of the keenest countries to support Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmamentvii, because it's seen some of the really devastating effects that nuclear weapons testing can make.
One of the more chilling announcements Trump made, I think last month, was that the [United] States might start testing nuclear weapons again. So, I come back to the point -- now is the moment. There isn't going to be a better moment than this to campaign on it, and I think Green Liberal Democrats have always been at the forefront of many of these arguments, so now is our moment about reinvestment in better things.
Keith Melton I think… Clearly, we have to take some care -- again I'm reading Matthew Holbert's comment: "Green Liberal Democrats are not saying this," at least then he says, "well, I'm not anyway". There are a number of issues within the environmental framework where we do have a tension even within the Green Liberal Democrats. I mean you take the argument between vegans and non-vegans. That sometimes can get quite heated within the Green Liberal Democrats for various reasons, and there are issues that we would agree on and there are some issues where there are some facets to that. Nuclear power is another one: I know there are members of the Green Liberal Democrats who favour us having nuclear power because they don't see any sufficient move towards renewable energy to get rid of coal and gas soon enough, so nuclear power ought to be considered very strongly. But a lot of Green Liberal Democrats don't want nuclear power, and I think nuclear weapons may well be one of the issues that causes some tension even within the Green Liberal Democrats. So, I think we need to take some care over how we approach this, because if we are riven by disagreement within a unit that's relatively small, within a small party, then we're going to be struggling to get a message across to the general population.
Kate, how… do you see the Green Liberal Democrats first of all should be getting involved with this, because where Green Liberal Democrats are not campaigning for nuclear disarmament democrats [?] And if so, is this something positive that we can bring to the argument that you don't see as being brought to the argument by other people?
Kate Hudson Well, I suppose I've got a couple of views on this. I think somebody may have … mentioned this earlier somewhere on this intercommunication that we're on, which is about things being linked together and not in silos, and about this time last year CND National Council agreed, having had… we had the same strategic priorities for some years, if not decades, and they get updated, but we… in view of the climate emergency, we decided to prioritize climate, not Trident, as one of our campaigning issues because of the interrelated nature of them. I mean, obviously there's the whole spending thing, what the priorities are, but there's also the carbon footprint of nuclear weapons and other forms of weaponry as well, militaries have a massive carbon footprint, and then there's also the ecological and environmental dangers or disasters that would ensue following even a small exchange of nuclear weapons. So, there's so many ways in which those two things are interlinked together: the climate, the environment, and now health of course, and nuclear weapons.
So, I think for an organization like Green Liberal Democrats -- and I'm assuming… I'm not a Liberal Democrat myself but I see you as … progressive thought, blue-sky thinking, trying to address the key issues that are facing the world, Britain in particular at this point, and those things they all interlink together. And then, just in terms of Parliament ... I mean, sometimes people talk about the Lib Dems as if they don't have a very good position on Trident, okay? So… well, in terms of what I would like to see it's not great but it is actually better than the other two main parties in Westminster. Okay, Jeremy Corbyn: he's a vice-president of CND, or whatever, because he's got a good track record, but in the leadership, he wasn't able to change Labour Party policy and they are still in favour of replacing Trident. Sometimes they talk about … their leading figures say that the Tories shouldn't be cutting defence budgets, they need to spend more! So, there's whole kinds of contradictory things, and of course the Tories are in favour of replacing Trident, and the Lib Dems -- particularly when you were in the coalition government -- you actually fought to discuss this issue in an open way, so I completely understand that you will be frustrated that your party doesn't have the kind of policy that you want it to have (and I would like it to have), but in comparative terms with the two main parties in Westminster, you've actually done more thinking on this than any others, and your Trident alternatives review, when Nick Harveyviii was in the Foreign Office, or Defence Ministry, or whatever … his work there was really important, and I don't know if you noticed but a couple of weeks ago there was a kind of debate, an issue going on about how there would have to be cuts to the defence budget, okay? and there was all this kind of chat behind the scenes and then it popped out into the newspaper saying that defence budget would have to be cut and that one of the things that was likely to go (this is because of the costs of dealing with the Coronavirus), one of the things that would be quite likely to go would be HMS Vanguard. That's one of the Trident subs, not the replacement, which is currently in the nuclear dockyard in Devonport in Plymouth, waiting to be re-serviced, serviced and refitted, to go back out on the seven seas. They think that that probably is not going to happen; it's just going to stay there. So, until the new subs are built (if they're ever built), Britain will be a three-sub nuclear fleet instead of a four one, and the three-sub fleet is what you Lib Dems, I think, have as your policy! So, the Coronavirus financial crisis is already pushing Britain down that road, and the further consequences of the economic thing will no doubt have a further impact. We all know that quite a lot of senior military figures think Trident is irrelevant and it should be scrapped. It's militarily useless, and so on; it's susceptible to cyber- and underwater drone technology, and all that kind of thing, it's technologically redundant. So, there are so many possibilities of it not happening, and you Lib Dems have, in a kind of limited way, whatever, led the way on this in amongst the big parties in Parliament. And I just think you should go all out for really pushing that because the door is wide open. You should just really push it and bring about the change that Britain needs.
Keith Melton That sounds nicely positive. I'm encouraged by that! Pippa do we have any more questions?
Pippa Heylings Yes, we do. So, Kate that's on what we should be doing and you think ... but there is a question saying, "so what is CND and others doing to shape the new narrative at national level given that?". In the chat as well, people are saying, "well, even if we do pull out, you've been naming these nuclear powers that are not abiding … threatening not to abide by international law. How do you stop that rapid proliferation going on?" Whilst this is the moment, post-Covid, that you think is the moment to then really drive a different direction, what are you, as CND and others, what's your strategy now in terms of reshaping a new narrative around that?
Kate Hudson Oh, absolutely. I mean, the new narrative thing is absolutely fundamental and it links to what I was saying just now. There's this window of opportunity where people are saying, "Actually, what is it that really matters in society? What jobs are actually important? It's not hedge-fund managers. It's the bus drivers, it's the nurses, it's the hospital workers, people in the supermarket. They are what keep our society going and they need to be valued. And when the pandemic has kind of dissipated enough to get back to so-called 'normal', we do need that new normal, we have to be part of that, and we have joined up with many, many other campaigns and NGOs in a kind of movement thing -- Build Back Betterix -- to use the international term. We've called it Build Back Better, and it's with a whole range of environmental, different social organizations wanting to see a transformational society around the values that we all share, I'm absolutely certain. So, we're part of that. No-one going it alone is a great idea, so we're part of the Build Back Better thing.
But in terms of… internationally, I mean, there's no doubt that now is the time. I don't know what your international links are like, as the Liberal Democrats Party and so on, but all these problems that we face are international problems. You can't solve any, you can't solve the economy as a single country, or the health crisis, or the problem of racism. All these things, climate change above all: they have to be dealt with on an international level. So, I think the multilateral approach, and hopefully the universal approach, to solving these problems is what has to be understood and adopted and that's why it's so disappointing -- and this has come up in the chat -- around countries pulling out of really important big treaties which are taking… countries that have been taking the arms control situation forward, like for example the Iran nuclear deal -- massive achievement by President Obama and others, trashed by President Trump, even though Iran was fully in compliance and all that sort of thing. Then US pulling out of the INF treatyx and then followed by Russia; and then now there's a big question as to whether the US will agree to re-negotiate … to renew the New START Treaty.xi And these things, unfortunately are US-led, so our government should be putting pressure on our key ally to not pull out of these things -- we are going to end up in a situation where there are no treaties limiting or restraining nuclear weapons; the [New] START Treaty, which was [signed by] President Medvedev and President Obama, that massively reduced… the bilateral reductions to the US and Russian arsenals, that's what we need. We don't need people pulling out of those things; we don't need people pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. We have to have everyone coming back to the table, and that's one of the things that CND tries to work on: lobbying our Prime Minister and relevant ministers about, putting our pressure, as an ally and with European partners as well, because they're all against countries pulling out of these things, just to try and ensure there is a multilateral, and hopefully universal, pressure to collectively solve these global problems, and that is what CND is 100% committed to.
Keith Moulton Thank you. I have just seen a comment and a question from Jason Billin who says, "Can we point out to those who fear job losses if we ban nuclear weapons that having a strong deterrent will still need submarines and conventional weapons? The nuclear missiles our defence forces have are actually American made". That raises two questions in my mind: one is the way that Jason has phrased it, the other is just simply the idea of anybody wanting to build weapons at a time when we're struggling to manage against the virus. So, Kate, do you want to pick that one up again?
Kate Hudson Yes, I think I've also answered this as well, but a couple of things. One is that CND and many other organizations have campaigned for arms conversion (some people put 'defence diversification') for a long time and the government has said, "No. That's utopian, that's never going to happen; you can't do that." Yeah, and within days of the pandemic starting, the government was trying to get companies to produce ventilators and other essential equipment. Now, first of all they went to Dyson vacuum cleaners. Obviously, the technology can't have been sufficiently interrelated because they were unable to do it. And then you had a thing called the UK Ventilator Consortium, which was about 30 or 40 companies, many of which were arms companies, some of which were nuclear weapons companies, actually then went on to produce those ventilators, so like arms conversion immediately. Then the workers at Barrow Shipyard where they make those new submarines (where they make all our submarines, actually, which are all nuclear-powered if not nuclear-armed), they have been making hospital equipment and some of the workers who were at home for … I don't know, shielding reasons or whatever … anyway they've been working from home making hospital visors, the rigid plastic visors on 3D printers. So, these are the things that can be done and the idea that we should now go back to making this other destructive stuff instead of providing for social needs is a terrible thing!
And, someone else was commenting in the chat about how many jobs are in the nuclear weapons industry. Well, our calculation was in the region of 11,500. And this reminds me of something that I think it was Nick Harvey said when he was in the MOD: 205 billion pounds to produce 11,500 jobs is like the least cost-effective job creation scheme you could possibly think of. It's just disastrous and there are so many reports and research and so on, done into how many sustainable jobs and so on, like the transition work done by the TUC, which I'm sure you're linked in with as well. The number of sustainable jobs, high-skilled jobs for people who have great industrial and engineering skills … you could have hundreds of thousands of jobs instead of 11,500! And this is to me the jobs thing, with absolutely no disrespect to the people who work in those sectors: they can be re-employed elsewhere, it's not 'make weapons of mass destruction or nothing'. It's the political will [that] is needed and the pandemic has shown that it's absolutely possible to do that, and that has to be part of our new narrative. We want that to continue.
Keith Melton So, the modern equivalent of "swords to ploughshares" is nuclear submarines to ventilators. I rather like that possibility. Pippa, have you been watching the questions? I was not doing that as I should.
Pippa Heylings Yes, I have. There's just one which is saying "France. Anybody know what's happening with France?" a very quick question in terms of ... Yep, Sue [KM you muted, Sue!]
Sue Miller Yes, well, again they are talking of modernizing, as far as I understood which is this time last year and, as far as I know, their proposals are still on track for modernizing their nuclear weapons which are again submarine-based. I don't know more than that, I don't know at the moment… There was a suggestion that we would have… (I belong to the all-party group on France) and there was a suggestion that we would have some joint parliamentary meetings, but those of course have gone by the wayside at the moment, but I hope they'll be back on track for the autumn.
And there is also an interesting organization -- talking of international organizations -- the one I particularly belong to for this topic is Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, which includes between 800 and 1000 members from all countries of the world and it's a very good forum for discussion, and we often have meetings in association with the Inter-Parliamentary Unionxii who's just about to produce a second handbook. We produced the first one in 2009 for parliamentarians to use when they want to progress issues about non-proliferation and disarmament, so giving them the facts and suggesting what sort of motions or what sort of debates they could be introducing. Because if you're in a country that's not really debating the issue at the moment, it can be quite a lonely and difficult, uphill task. So, that support has been very useful for parliamentarians to keep that movement going and it's not at all limited to the non-nuclear states. So, we've got senators in the [United] States and so on, and I think, again, that's one of the organizations that I hope will gain even more traction this year.
Keith Melton Thank you. Clive Trussell says, "Apart from having the extra money to spend, wouldn't it be a good psychological reason to put in people's minds that if we got rid of nuclear weapons, the other nuclear weapons would stop being pointed at us?" Do we think that's a realistic proposition, Sue, that people would stop pointing nuclear weapons [at us] if we put ours down on the floor?
Sue Miller Well, isn't it? I mean, pretty much the debate around "no-first-use" has been all about 'are our weapons pointed at anyone and if so, would we pull the trigger'. And people (I saw it in the chat just now) people remember Jo Swinson said she would pull the trigger. I don't see any country imminently threatening us with their nuclear weapons. I mean, they may well be pointed at us. I have no idea where Russia's and China's weapons are pointed, but China, again, doesn't see nuclear weapons really as their main investment in world influence or world domination. That's why they're doing their whole Belt and Roadxiii movement, and buying up resources around the world, like minerals and so on. That's China's route to world domination, it seems to me. And I don't really see that even for a country like China, which obviously makes… it's the country that makes the United States the most nervous, even for a country like China, that they are seriously invested in actually destroying half of the world. And they know as well as we do (their scientists must be saying the same thing) that were they to use those weapons, they'll starve to death in the nuclear winter the same as we will.
Keith Melton Kate, yes, by all means.
Kate Hudson Thanks. Just on this thing about being a target… I mean, I very strongly take the view that having nuclear weapons makes us a target and this was reinforced to me a few years ago as when North Korea was doing the tests, and I think it was Philip Hammondxiv who was foreign secretary at the time, or defence secretary, and I think it was Philip Hammond, and he was on a Sky TV interview and he said, "The trouble is they think… the North Koreans think that having a nuclear weapon will make them safe", and he said, "on the contrary, it will only make them a target". And so of course we jumped on that immediately: "Yes it makes us a target too!" and then hey, presto! Very shortly afterwards unfortunately that interview was deleted from the internet. But he meant… that's what he said, it makes you a target, and nuclear weapons states are not going to target non-nuclear weapon states. Why would they? You don't need to use nukes or target new non-nuclear states with nuclear weapons. It's entirely about other nuclear weapons states. And that is why so many countries in the world don't have nuclear weapons and do not want to have nuclear weapons. I mentioned earlier on about the entire global South and other parts of the global North as well self-organized in nuclear-weapons-free zones, because I think it's more dangerous to have them than not to have them. And that is why we aspire, as CND, to achieve a global globally nuclear-free world so everyone can be safe. There are enough problems to deal with without the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Keith Melton "A condition of (I was just reading that and it moved, excuse me a minute) a condition of trade deal might be for us to accommodate US nuclear weapons. Will that make us a target?" Sue's just nodding. I think that's probably enough of an answer, Sue. Clearly, if we're getting chlorinated chicken and nuclear weapons, we're done for!
Sue Miller Well, I mean, that was one thing that really motivated people, and especially women, back in the day, that was Greenham Common; as soon as the US said, "Well, we want to site our weapons on your soil," people did get up and say "Enough is enough!" So, in one way it might really move the argument forward but I'm not arguing it would be a good thing. I think it's possible that … I mean, the [United] States has tried it on with all sorts of countries in Europe to suggest they has [sic] them and, yeah… it could easily be the price of a deal. Luckily, we might have the US presidential elections before then, and a President that actually takes a really much more serious view of international treaties and the dangers that we're in at the moment. It was surprising really, wasn't it, that it was Ronald Reaganxv who really moved the treaty thing forward when he was elected. None of us thought that that's something he'd major on, and he'd have a lot of success with, but it was! So, let's hope for a change of president, not a trade deal.
Keith Melton Kate, yes of course.
Kate Hudson Yeah, just… I mean, one of the things around this US nukes thing came up for us very strongly when the US pulled out of the INF Treaty. And it's a bilateral treaty, so it basically collapsed and it was that's intermediate-range nuclear forces and the Cruise missiles, which came here in the 1980s, and Pershing in Europe, and which there were so many massive protests and demonstrations against including, as Sue mentioned, Greenham Common and the great peace camp movement -- that those weapons, potentially, as the US has pulled out of it ... could come back to Europe, because they're not for the US to fire anywhere else: they wouldn't reach anywhere else from the US. They're for the US to station somewhere else so they can target places closer to. So, are we immediately ... took this up in terms of lobbying with the government and so on. We don't want any nuclear INF nuclear medium-range nuclear things coming back to Britain. And of course, at that time, quite rightly, they were still supporting the INF Treaty and wanting the US and Russia to go back into it as were all European countries, because they're basically weapons to be used for great power nuclear wars to take place in Europe. That's why there was the big protest about it before. But experts from Russia [?] and places like that say that it's actually more likely that US nukes of that sort … not only will they be in the Far East, in the Asia-Pacific against China, that would be one of the sort of staging places, and all that sort of thing. If they were put in Europe, they would likely be put in Eastern Europe, where the populations are more welcoming of US bases, and so on. Because the last time the US had nuclear weapons in Britain (I don't mean Trident, I mean its own nuclear weapons under US direct control) that was ended in 2008. They had a number of free-fall bombers, free-fall weapons bombers stationed at RAF Lakenheath in East Anglia, and they were withdrawn quietly and reallocated to elsewhere in Europe because of the scale of the peace and anti-war movement in Britain, and the continual protests there. So, that's one of the victories and achievements of protest against nuclear weapons, that we got rid of them. So, we are not going to have them back again. It's unlikely that the US would try and put them here. It wouldn't be in their best interest, tactically and strategically, and so on, but we would certainly oppose it, absolutely, if they tried to do so.
Keith Melton Thank you. I was just thinking as you were talking there about the argument that we'd heard earlier on, about finances and how the Green Liberal Democrats ought to be campaigning, and it just struck me that there might be a case for us… rather than being seen to be the supplicants and say, "Can we get rid of nuclear weapons?" … that we ought to put the shoe on the other foot and those people who are wanting to maintain and spend more on nuclear weapons, shouldn't we be putting them in the dock and asking them, "If you want to spend money on nuclear weapons, where are you going to take it from against all the other problems that we are facing? Where are you going to reduce money? Are you going to reduce it in terms of spending on pandemic? Are you going to reduce money in terms of spending on climate change, in order to make these nuclear weapons?" Perhaps we ought to reverse the argument! So, do you think that's a good idea?
Sue Miller Yes, I mean, I think you're absolutely right, so that we do make it quite clear that actually something else has to pay the price if they want to spend the money. The reason I was just hesitating before I unmuted myself was something else was going through my mind, harking back slightly to a previous question… I wonder if there's a split in the demographic on this; whether older people who remember the war, and so on, are less inclined to get rid of nuclear weapons, and if young people would be more inclined to get rid of them. I haven't seen any very recent surveys about this, and actually it'd be really interesting to have a post-pandemic survey about renewing Trident and the cost of it, and to see just what the age split is, because in terms of investing in the future, I guess the views of the young people are really crucial.
Keith Melton Perhaps we could go for a crowd-funded piece of market research in conjunction with CND. Kate, would that be of interest to you? Yes, she's nodding. Pippa, any more questions that I haven't noticed?
Pippa Heylings Yes, so one's come in as well from Geoff Harvey, and he's just wondering whether the winding-down of oil can be seen as a strategic watershed in this, or is there a connection to nuclear power balance?
Keith Melton Neither Sue nor Kate wanted to take that one up. Go on Kate!
Kate Hudson Well, I don't quite understand that, so I'm not going to claim… I'd quite like to just comment on the subsequent one to that. If we wanted to maintain a sub-fleet which didn't have nuclear weapons and would we actually save on non-nuclear weapons subs that would be much cheaper. Well, the interesting thing is that at Barrow they are just finishing building a whole new fleet of nuclear-powered conventionally armed submarines -- the Astute Classxvi -- so we've got that, and all the kit that goes with it. So, we wouldn't need to build a whole new one, and the problem with nuclear weapons submarines is that they aren't interchangeable. Sometimes people say "Well, why can't you just have some nuclear missile tubes on the Astute subs and you can double them up?" Well, there's some technical logic to that, although I'd be completely opposed to it. But it's all been designed and constructed in such a way that that's not possible. Hence, we have to have this arrangement to build special subs that will house the US missile tubes and the US missiles, and so on. So, we do have those conventionally armed nuclear-powered subs and the new… the remaining new subs are coming on stream as we speak.
Keith Melton Okay, I think we've got… it's coming up to four o'clock. I think we've got time perhaps for one more question and then we're… if we can go enough just a few review thoughts from both Sue and Kate. So, Pippa, do you have another question for us that we haven't answered?
Pippa Heylings Yes, and Jason is sort of coming back with a huge amount of enthusiasm, saying that he would really like to work on this. But, if there was an amendment -- is there a need for an amendment? -- to the Treaty that's being proposed and the motion that's going to Party [Conference] Sue, do you think there's anything that you would think should be put forward as an amendment to that, and I think particularly looking within the environmental side of this, the environmental frame but maybe beyond…
Sue Miller I mean, that's an interesting question because obviously you can always strengthen motions, but I feel it is pretty strong. One of the most recent editions has been adding in the reference to climate change which is obviously very important. But, I mean, there's never a reason not to have a moment [sic] because in any case I think that it always encourages debate, and so on. So, by all means, look at it and suggest amendments to it, because however while it's drafted it can't be perfect, but I think it's done well to get to where it is. And, I mean, the result of this afternoon's discussion points to me that perhaps we need to spend a bit more time really countering the arguments about multilateralism and this making us weaker as a country. I don't know… I'd have to go back and look at the motion but that seems to me the biggest counterargument at the moment and that's something we're obviously going to have to tackle.
Keith Melton Okay, so we're within a few minutes now of closing. So, I'm going to ask Kate first to make a summary of how she thinks we've done this afternoon in terms of raising the right issues, and then Sue to summarize how she thinks that we might go forward, either as Green Liberal Democrats, or just as Liberal Democrats. Kate, first to you.
Kate Hudson Thanks for a really interesting discussion. I think you've raised all the right issues. I mean, the chat and the Q&A discussion has been fantastic, and I just urge you to really seize the initiative on this. The world out there is crying out for something different and that something different, as far as I can see, very much chimes with your values, human values, humane values, and peace, democracy, justice, [?] opportunities and all those kinds of things, and dealing with these crises -- the pandemic and the climate crisis, and so on. So, to have a really bold vision, not just thinking 'oh well, how to get back to normal', and all that sort of thing… have a really bold vision and shape the new narrative because, as sure as eggs are eggs, the Conservative Party is not going to do that. They're trying to use this terrible crisis and great human tragedy as a way of bolstering themselves and increasing profits and changing structures and things in the general interests of their interests, so it's not going to come from them. Labour is congenitally cautious, as far as I can see. It finds it very difficult to have a bold vision and really fight for it. So, it's open to you to do this and you've got a good track record of raising these things in a way that the other main parties don't do. So, I think you should just seize the initiative and make a holistic approach to transformational society.
Keith Melton Fabulous! Seize the initiative and go with it! Is that what we're going to do, Sue?
Sue Miller Well, I certainly hope that this moment, where we talk about a 'new normal' -- there was another great phrase which is just ... building… that was used this afternoon, but anyway another great phrase, but it all suggests to me it is the moment to start making moves on this. And I just see it as an incredible coming together of Global Justice with Black Lives Matter and how we, as the UK, regard other countries in the world, all 122 of them. And we really… [Thank you, yes, thanks Kate, "Build Back Better"!] It's part of 'building back better', it's part of the 'new normal', and the worst thing we could do after the pandemic is to sink back into seeing nuclear weapons and spending on them and renewing them as the answer. And I think your question on the resources is a crucial one because there will be really hard choices to be made. It's not as though the post-pandemic economics are going to allow us anyway not to make some difficult and hard choices, and the difficult and hard choices for those who believe nuclear weapons are likely to be ... that they will have to start justifying as you said, I think Keith, we make them justify how on Earth that spend could be a good idea. So, I think this is the moment -- and I cannot think in my adult lifetime that there has been a better one -- to really look at actual multilateralism, but I'm comfortable with thinking that still does begin with the UK giving up their weapons because we're never going to get there without somebody making a move. It's just not realistic and the UK has done some good things: it's done a very good verification programme with Norway, which I hope it's continuing, and so we know that, actually, practically, things like that verification programme mean that this is going to be possible, so I think we really need to push for it now.
Keith Melton 'We really need to push for it now'. That's a really good spot to end on. I think we might have made some progress as well in the debate. Laura started by saying she's open to persuasion and I've just seen from Martin Horwood, "As an alternative that might please both multilateralists and unilateralists within the party, we could champion an initiative to bring together lower-level nuclear states - France, India, Pakistan, Israel and China - if they could be brought to the table, with all those states that have been on or might be at the nuclear threshold -- South Africa, Turkey, Saudi, Iran, Brazil, Argentina and so on." So, I think even Martin has shifted his ground a little bit during the last hour and a half. I would like to thank both Sue Miller and Kate Hudson for giving us their time and speaking to us on this thorny issue. Thanks Pippa as well, for keeping me informed about what's going on out here in the chat room, and then questions, and thanks to our professional team for keeping us online so well. We were talking this morning about being able to clap… we can't clap but if the audience would like to put 'applause' or 'clap-clap' in there, we'll relay it to the panellists as well. Good, great stuff guys! This is going well. Okay, so we started a minute late -- we're actually finishing a minute late, and I don't think that's bad timing for this Chair! Thanks, everybody.
I'm not quite sure what's going to happen next. Karen is coming back to life… you're muted, Karen. Come on, keep up!
Karen [?] Can't get the staff… Can you just… can't get the staff… I was saying: what a fantastic discussion! We've now reached that time when it's tea break, so from four till five you have the ... you can go and find your kitchen, you can go and grab yourself some biscuits of your choice. You should have your favourite biscuits in your house… none of the Rich Tea leftover that no-one else wants to drink or eat, and we have at five o'clock the leadership candidates Q&A, so we're going to open the meeting hall… there are the five… the eight meeting rooms that you can drop in and out of, and we will see you back here at five o'clock. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you … for a discussion which was brilliant. I will see you in the meeting hall for the next hour, so thank you everybody and I will see you in the next session.
Keith Melton Thanks, guys… bye… disappearing one by one… Karen, can I just ask a question? I've saved the chat can we save the Q&A?
Karen [?] It's saved as part of the overall save from my end, so yes. Thank you, yes and with that I will end the recording.
i The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists began as an emergency action undertaken by scientists who saw urgent need for an immediate educational program about atomic weapons. The intention was to educate fellow scientists about the relationship between their world of science and the world of national and international politics. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulletin_of_the_Atomic_Scientists
iv Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp was a series of protest camps established to protest nuclear weapons being placed at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire, England, from September 1981. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenham_Common_Women%27s_Peace_Camp
v The Dreadnought class of ballistic submarines for the Royal Navy is the future replacement for the Vanguard class of ballistic missile submarines. Like their predecessors they will carry Trident II D-5 missiles. They are now being built. The first boat was named in October 2016.
vi Cruise missile Guided missile used against terrestrial targets, that remains in the atmosphere and flies the major portion of its flight path at approximately constant speed. Cruise missiles are designed to deliver a large warhead over long distances with high precision. Modern cruise missiles are capable of travelling at supersonic or high subsonic speeds, are self-navigating, and are able to fly on a non-ballistic, extremely low-altitude trajectory https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruise_missile
vii Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) is a non-partisan forum for parliamentarians nationally and internationally to share resources and information, develop cooperative strategies and engage in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament issues, initiatives and arenas. http://www.gcago.com/pd.jsp?id=111
viii Sir Nicholas Barton Harvey is a British Liberal Democrat politician. He was the Member of Parliament for North Devon from 1992 until 2015 and the Minister of State for the Armed Forces from 2010 to 2012.
ix Building Back Better (BBB) is a strategy aimed at reducing the risk to the people of nations and communities in the wake of future disasters and shocks. The BBB approach integrates disaster risk reduction measures into the restoration of physical infrastructure, social systems and shelter, and the revitalization of livelihoods, economies and the environment. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Building_Back_Better
x The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty, formally Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles. Signed 8 December 1987. Expiration: 2 August 2019.
xi New START is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation with the formal name of Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. It was signed on 8 April 2010 in Prague, and, after ratification, entered into force on 5 February 2011. It is expected to last at least until 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_START
xii The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU; French: Union Interparlementaire [UIP]) is an international organization of national parliaments. Its primary purpose is to promote democratic governance, accountability, and cooperation among its members; other initiatives include advancing gender parity among legislatures, empowering youth participation in politics, and sustainable development.
xiii The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, or B&R), known in Chinese and formerly in English as One Belt One Road or OBOR for short, is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in nearly 70 countries and international organizations. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belt_and_Road_Initiative
xiv Philip Hammond was Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (2014 - 2016) and Secretary of State for Defence (2011 - 2014).
xv Ronald Wilson Reagan served as the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989 and became a highly influential voice of modern conservatism. Prior to his presidency, he was a Hollywood actor and union leader before serving as the 33rd governor of California from 1967 to 1975.
xvi The Royal Navy's Astute Class submarine is a nuclear-powered attack submarine, which will replace the five Swiftsure Class submarines, launched between 1973 and 1977 and approaching the end of their operational life. They will be based at Faslane in Scotland. The first, HMS Astute, was launched in June 2007 and commissioned in August 2010.
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