Lib Dem Act

Please comment, amend etc.  I have based the structure upon our letter to Ming but as you can see, advanced our thinking. 

 

Dear Tim,

 

Thank you for your kind invitation to give you an overview of Say No to Trident, a group created on Lib Dem ACT and has almost 3000 supporters on facebook.  First of all, let me assure you that the active members are all Liberal Democrats; members, activists and supporters.  We are not some alien organisation, attempting to infiltrate the party (and yes, that suggestion has been made!).  To business. 

 

First of all, as suggested by the name of the group, we are against the like-for-like replacement of the Trident system, as it is laid out in the previous government’s 2006 white paper The Future of Britain’s Nuclear Deterrent.  In this paper, lip service is given to multilateral disarmament but by the end of the document there is discussion about a future generation of nuclear deterrent coming into service between 2042 and 2050. It seems that this is in response to the view that the world is too uncertain a place to manage without this nation being armed with nuclear weapons. If this opinion were to prevail, there will never be any multilateral disarmament. We will have resigned ourselves for these weapons to be always in existence.

 

We therefore suggest that Britain should be the first of the major powers to relinquish nuclear weapons, in line with the signatories’ obligations as stated in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. We would not be the first country to decline or relinquish nuclear weapons; both South Africa and Kazakhstan have already done so to the credit of both nations.  Remember also that when the permanent members of the United Nations were created, only one of them was nuclear-armed.  Do not be persuaded that our nation’s status in the UN is dependent upon our current nuclear status.

 

Now we are aware this is a radical step.  If a way can be found to link this with reducing the nuclear arsenals of other nations, Say No to Trident will be delighted.  Let us have a clear picture of what is really happening in the world.  For decades now, nuclear weapon proliferation has not conformed to the old Cold War models.  The only truly irrational nation developing such weapons nowadays is North Korea, which feels it is threatened by everybody.  Pakistan development is logical if one considers India’s nuclear program.  Iran, the chief bogyman, is reacting to that which must not be spoken of in polite circles.  Since like yourself we value blunt speaking in SNTT, we name Israel and their Sampson nuclear weapons.  An apt name: even the Israelis realise it is a weapon of suicide; tearing down one’s enemies with the last breath.

 

You see the pattern though.  Even reductions between Russia and the USA, as outlined in President Obama’s Prague speech of 2009, has shown the future of multilateral disarmament is actually bilateral.   Thus it is the duty of Britain to find a disarmament partner and proceed accordingly.  We even realise that this might not be possible.  We understand that Russia actually considers the UK’s weapons as one with American nuclear forces.  If this is actually the case, would you not agree we stopped helping the USA carry this nuclear burden?  Not through any malicious thought towards our allies; merely because the world has changed and the Bomb no longer needs a Union Jack planted on top of it.

 

We believe that the people of Britain are ready to listen to such arguments with a sympathetic ear, especially when relating to the long-term cost of upholding a nuclear deterrent. At a time when we are facing painful cuts in public services, it would look extraordinary that we then proceed to spend in excess of £100 billion on a replacement for Trident: a weapons system that protects us from no one in particular.

 

Tim, the group does recognise and appreciate your effects in parliament to delay the replacement of Trident by holding the Main Gate vote in 2016.  We feel, however that we have been out-maneuvered by the continuation of spending via the Initial Gate process as uncovered by FOE questions posed by Greenpeace.  It seems that our Coalition partners are determined to present parliament a fait-accompli by not only designing the Successor boats but by partially building the hulls too.

 

As party president, we seek your help in bringing such views to the wider party.  Apparently there are no plans that our Liberal Democrat report on nuclear alternatives to Trident be published.  Acknowledging the requirements of security, surely the public should be told as to how the nation’s money can be spent?  It is also being said that the MoD is able to avoid FOE questions on Trident spending.  The Royal Navy reckon that the issue on nuclear weapons are political and not of military necessity.  They only come into the picture when we politician ask for their expertise on deployment.  Thus why should the spending picture be dependent upon government announcements and not be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny?  Surely MPs need all the costs involved, from independent sources, prior to the Main Gate vote.

 

As a party, we need a real vote on this issue in conference.  Last year’s “emergency” motion was a rehash of current party policy, as such being a restatement of the 2007 fudge.  The party needs a vote upon whether Britain needs to remain a nuclear-armed nation.  SNTT are happy to have a proper debate with the issue and we believe the British public will appreciate it.  We are not the Labour Party and this is not the 1980s.

 

This could be a unique selling point for us in the 2015 election.  It has been a tough year for the party Tim.  God knows we all know this: I stood in the Scottish elections of 2011!  We need to be sensible with the economy and radical with our policies.

 

Liberal Democrats, armed with a sensible and clear policy on nuclear weapons could well regain the vote of the left.

 

Thank you for giving Say No to Trident this opportunity.

 

Kindest regards,

Views: 135

Replies to This Discussion

Martin, I strongly support your third paragraph suggesting that Britain should relinquish nuclear weapons.  I think that clear message might be diluted by other parts of the letter, notably your reference to the Liberal Democrat report on nuclear alternatives to Trident.  I am not interested in nuclear alternatives, they are a response to concerns about the cost of Trident and its boats not a response to the principles aired earlier in your draft letter.

regards

Keith, I do understand you point and I appreciate you highlighting the issue. 

 

The reason I included it is that they are they things that are happening now in government which we have no control over.  Whatever that can be done to make this issue more transparent is to the benefit of our aim, which I share with you.  During the SNTT fringe meeting, these particular issues were raised by the Nuclear Information Service and CND as issues for immediate concern.

 

So forgive me for diluting the message.  It is really a series of steps; the art of the possible.  What we as a group need is to win the debate within the party before we can deliver the reality of a nuclear-free Britain.

 

Please, I want this letter ripped apart by constructive criticism so thank you Keith.

May I do a little more `ripping`? The letter is well composed and I am sure it will be read and acted upon sympathetically by Tim BUT it does appear contradictary in parts. I too would like to see us state categorically that our group is working for the elimination of the UK's (and world) nuclear arsenal. We can only influence as we do not have amongst our ranks an MP, I think (has Julian joined us??) but working with CND and WCP/IM;AP we can become a powerful influence. We should be lobbying all our MPs to ascertain how they would vote if a Bill came before Parliament seeking the non-relacement of Trident with any other nuclear arsenal.Euther before or after that survey we should conduct an all LD member survey -we made a tentative start last year when we surveyed our local members and I still have their replies ( a majority in favour of non-replacement).

If we are going to include a gradual programme for elimination of nuclear weapons, you are right in suggesting the following

1 The absolute necessity of all expenditure by the MoD and Nick Harvey's recommendations to be made public.

2 Exploration of a joint nuclear arsenal with France. I understood that France suggested a shared nuclear sub daily trip round the bay ( Continuous at sea deployment) but Gordon Brown refused saying it would threaten our soversignty!!! Nick Harvey seems to believe that France turned us down. This certainly needs clarifying. This would only be acceptable to me (and you?) if it was shown to be the first stage towards elimination of nuclear weapons by both states. This is at least a step towards achieving the non-nuclear Europe that Charles Kennedy and others have wanted for so long and it would save money.

3 It might be a good idea if SNTT asked to become an Associated Organisation within the party. AOs do seem to get preference when submitting motions to Conference and we wouldbe taken more seriously..We are close to David Grace's organisation so it may be worth talking to him and his committee about this.We need to be in a position to put forward a motion on non-nuclear defence by 2013 at the latest oif we are to get our views in the 2015 manifesto, which is actually being conceived as we write, I think.

4 Do we also need to survey our own members on ACT to find out how many are unilateralists? I have been assuming that we all are but we should have the figures. A simple questionnaire (we have one) will do.

I

If you are baffled as to what IM;AP is it is an example of my typing going wrong after midnight. INLAP is the Institute for Law and Peace and it works with the World Court Project , which established in 1996 that first strike would be illegal and that there was a need to work in all good faith to eliminate nuclear weapons. This was achieved by a request to the International Court of Justice for a legal ruling about nuclear weapons. It is this legal aspect, which we have so far neglected and I suggest that we work with WCP/INLAP to comvimce fellow Lib Dems that international law may require nuclear states to relinquish them.I do not believe that `all is fair in love and war`.

This seems to be the offending paragraph:

 

remove

 

As party president, we seek your help in bringing such views to the wider party.  Apparently there are no plans that our Liberal Democrat report on nuclear alternatives to Trident be published.  Acknowledging the requirements of security, surely the public should be told as to how the nation’s money can be spent?  It is also being said that the MoD is able to avoid FOE questions on Trident spending.  The Royal Navy reckon that the issue on nuclear weapons are political and not of military necessity.  They only come into the picture when we politician ask for their expertise on deployment.  Thus why should the spending picture be dependent upon government announcements and not be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny?  Surely MPs need all the costs involved, from independent sources, prior to the Main Gate vote.

 

Replace with:

 

As party president, we seek your help in bringing such view to the wider party.  SNTT are against nuclear weapons in all forms but we realise that there is a debate to be had in the party.  Meanwhile, there are steps which all our MPs can be making, regardless of their standing on this issue.

1) Nick Harvey's alternative report is only looking at nuclear alternatives to Trident.  Should not the brief be enlarged to consider defence based upon non-nuclear options too? 

2) The above report is due to have restricted publication.  Subject to the interests of national security, the British people has the right to know what the options are and how much of their money is involved.

Which point leads us to

3) Currently the spending on Successor, Trident maintainance and AWE falls outside FOE requests.  So how can MPs vote on the facts of the issue come 2016 if they don't even know how much it is really going to cost?  Our Liberal Democrat ministers and MPs should be leading the fight for transparency in government and there is no area more important than this.  If Main Gate goes ahead, Britian will be committed to spending up to 2060.  In what other area of government would this be accepted without proper scrutiny being made? 

 

Janet, maybe you can draft a paragraph on legality?  Is there a lawyer in the house?

 

Good. Just some minor points. Stance rather than standing. FOI not FOE.I would make a statement rather than asking a question  - The brief should be enlarged (or changed) to consider defence based on non-nuclear options too

 

I would ask for a Liberal Democrat debate on the whole issue of nuclear weapons either through the Liberal Social Forum or our group holding a conference/study day but we need finance to do this(it could be self funding eventually)..

Martin Veart said:

This seems to be the offending paragraph:

 

remove

 

As party president, we seek your help in bringing such views to the wider party.  Apparently there are no plans that our Liberal Democrat report on nuclear alternatives to Trident be published.  Acknowledging the requirements of security, surely the public should be told as to how the nation’s money can be spent?  It is also being said that the MoD is able to avoid FOE questions on Trident spending.  The Royal Navy reckon that the issue on nuclear weapons are political and not of military necessity.  They only come into the picture when we politician ask for their expertise on deployment.  Thus why should the spending picture be dependent upon government announcements and not be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny?  Surely MPs need all the costs involved, from independent sources, prior to the Main Gate vote.

 

Replace with:

 

As party president, we seek your help in bringing such view to the wider party.  SNTT are against nuclear weapons in all forms but we realise that there is a debate to be had in the party.  Meanwhile, there are steps which all our MPs can be making, regardless of their standing on this issue.

1) Nick Harvey's alternative report is only looking at nuclear alternatives to Trident.  Should not the brief be enlarged to consider defence based upon non-nuclear options too? 

2) The above report is due to have restricted publication.  Subject to the interests of national security, the British people has the right to know what the options are and how much of their money is involved.

Which point leads us to

3) Currently the spending on Successor, Trident maintainance and AWE falls outside FOE requests.  So how can MPs vote on the facts of the issue come 2016 if they don't even know how much it is really going to cost?  Our Liberal Democrat ministers and MPs should be leading the fight for transparency in government and there is no area more important than this.  If Main Gate goes ahead, Britian will be committed to spending up to 2060.  In what other area of government would this be accepted without proper scrutiny being made? 

 

Janet, maybe you can draft a paragraph on legality?  Is there a lawyer in the house?

 

DRAFT 2  created with reference to the comments below.  Again it is open to revision, comments etc.

 

Dear Tim,

 

Thank you for your kind invitation to give you an overview of Say No to Trident (SNTT), a group created on Lib Dem ACT and has almost 3000 supporters on facebook.  First of all, let me assure you that the active members are all Liberal Democrats; members, activists and supporters.  We are not some alien organisation, attempting to infiltrate the party (and yes, that suggestion has been made!).

 

To business.  First of all, as suggested by the name of the group, we are against the like-for-like replacement of the Trident system, as it is laid out in the previous government’s 2006 white paper The Future of Britain’s Nuclear Deterrent.  In this paper, lip service is given to multilateral disarmament but by the end of the document there is discussion about a future generation of nuclear deterrent coming into service between 2042 and 2050. It seems that this is in response to the view that the world is too uncertain a place to manage without this nation being armed with nuclear weapons. If this opinion were to prevail, there will never be any multilateral disarmament. We will have resigned ourselves for these weapons to be always in existence.

 

We therefore suggest that Britain should be the first of the major powers to relinquish nuclear weapons, in line with the signatories’ obligations as stated in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. We would not be the first country to decline or relinquish nuclear weapons; both South Africa and Kazakhstan have already done so to the credit of both nations.  Remember also that when the permanent members of the United Nations were created, only one of them was nuclear-armed.  Do not be persuaded that our nation’s status in the UN is dependent upon our current nuclear status.

 

Now we are aware this is a radical step.  If a way can be found to link this with reducing the nuclear arsenals of other nations, Say No to Trident will be delighted.  Let us have a clear picture of what is really happening in the world.  For decades now, nuclear weapon proliferation has not conformed to the old Cold War models.  The only truly irrational nation developing such weapons nowadays is North Korea, which feels it is threatened by everybody.  Pakistan development is logical if one considers India’s nuclear program.  Iran, the chief bogyman, is reacting to that which must not be spoken of in polite circles.  Since like yourself we value blunt speaking in SNTT, we will name Israel and their Sampson nuclear weapons.  An apt name: even the Israelis realise it is a weapon of suicide; tearing down one’s enemies with the last breath.

 

You see the pattern though.  Even reductions between Russia and the USA, as outlined in President Obama’s Prague speech of 2009, has shown the future of multilateral disarmament is actually bilateral.   Thus it is the duty of Britain to find a disarmament partner and proceed accordingly.  We even realise that this might not be possible.  We understand that Russia actually considers the UK’s weapons as one with American nuclear forces.  If this is actually the case, it is time we stopped helping the USA carry this nuclear burden; not through any malicious thought towards our allies rather because the world has changed and the Bomb no longer needs a Union Jack planted on top of it.

 

We believe that the people of Britain are ready to listen to such arguments with a sympathetic ear, especially when relating to the long-term cost of upholding a nuclear deterrent. At a time when we are facing painful cuts in public services, it would look extraordinary that we then proceed to spend in excess of £100 billion on a replacement for Trident: a weapons system that protects us from no one in particular.

 

Tim, the group does recognise and appreciate your effects in parliament to delay the replacement of Trident by holding the Main Gate vote in 2016.  We feel, however that we have been out-maneuvered by the continuation of spending via the Initial Gate process as uncovered by FOI questions posed by Greenpeace.  It seems that our Coalition partners are determined to present parliament a fait-accompli by not only designing the Successor boats but by partially building the hulls too.

 

As party president, we seek your help in bringing such view to the wider party.  SNTT are against nuclear weapons in all forms but we realise that there is a debate to be had in the party.  Meanwhile, there are steps which all our MPs can be making, regardless of their standing on this issue.

1) Nick Harvey's alternative report is only looking at nuclear alternatives to Trident.  The brief be enlarged to consider defense based upon non-nuclear options too. 

2) The above report is due to have restricted publication.  Subject to the interests of national security, the British people has the right to know what the options are and how much of their money is involved.

Which point leads us to

3) Currently the spending on Successor, Trident maintenance and AWE falls outside FOI requests.  So how can MPs vote on the facts of the issue come 2016 if they don't even know how much it is really going to cost?  Our Liberal Democrat ministers and MPs should be leading the fight for transparency in government and there is no area more important than this.  If Main Gate goes ahead, Britain will be committed to spending up to 2060.  In no other area of government would this be accepted without proper scrutiny being made. 

 

As a party, we need a vote on this issue in conference.  Last year’s “emergency” motion was a rehash of current party policy, as such being a restatement of the 2007 fudge.  The party needs a vote upon whether Britain needs to remain a nuclear-armed nation.  SNTT are happy to have a proper debate with the issue and we believe the British public will appreciate it.  We are not the Labour Party and this is not the 1980s.

 

As a group we are interested in formalising SNTT position within the party and would appreciate your advice on becoming an Associated Organisation.

 

This could be a unique selling point for us in the 2015 election.  It has been a tough year for the party Tim.  God knows we all know this: I stood in the Scottish elections of 2011!  We need to be sensible with the economy and radical with our policies.

 

Liberal Democrats, armed with a sensible and clear policy on nuclear weapons could well regain the vote of the left.

 

Thank you for giving Say No to Trident this opportunity.

 

Kindest regards,

 

 

Martin, Janet, I feel comfortable with that redraft.

regards

I think there is quite sufficient in the letter to get the point across. If we add a further dimension, such as the legality issue, then it will confuse the purpose of this letter.

 

I agree that the legality of Trident needs to be questioned but not in this letter.

 

As per my email to you yesterday - please use the English UK spelling of DEFENCE  (NOT defense) and out-manoeuvred not "out-maneuvered". I abhor the use of American spelling, it is not English! We have far to much Americanisation of our language and grammar already without us using ourselves.

Sorry Rebekah.  I'm in Israel, not using my usual computer and obviously it has a US dictionary.
Thank you Keith.  Glad that the issues have been clarified.  Appreciate the input.

Keith Watts said:

Martin, Janet, I feel comfortable with that redraft.

regards

I appreciate that Martin., If you are using Word on a PC, it ought to have the option of setting the language for the document as English UK (there is a drop-down menu which you can drag from the customise in Tools->Options->customise under Tools->Language). If you are using a Mac, the Open Office also has that facility. Whichever you are having to produce it, perhaps you could email it to me or someone else in the group for conversion into Englsih UK before sending it to Tim Farron? Just a thought.......

Martin Veart said:
Sorry Rebekah.  I'm in Israel, not using my usual computer and obviously it has a US dictionary.

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