Liberal Democrat Conference: Defence - Disarmament move fails

THE LIBERAL Democrat leadership yesterday headed off a potentially embarrassing move to commit the party to United Kingdom unilateral nuclear disarmament by 2003.

The move was defeated on a large show of hands after pleas by Baroness Williams and Menzies Campbell, the foreign affairs spokesmen in the Lords and the Commons.

Mr Campbell earlier told the conference the Liberal Democrats would carry out their own review of defence policy, including nuclear weapons, following the Government's strategic defence review. "This motion would pre-empt that review. It is not the way to make policy on an issue of such importance. The amendment should be rejected," he said.

Winding up the defence and foreign affairs debate, Lady Williams, a former Labour minister, urged the conference to reject the unilateralist motion submitted by 42 representatives and the constituencies of Camberwell and Peckham, and Oxford West and Abingdon.

"This is a very dangerous time to move away from trying to establish an international structure of order. I plead with Liberal Democrats to fight against this amendment," she said.

The conference gave its backing to the policy for "retaining a minimum nuclear deterrent as a weapon of last resort for the foreseeable future".