LETTER: Pacific nuclear tests: French public opinion, British history, Labour policy

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From Dr David Clark, MP

Sir: Having entirely misrepresented the Labour Party's position on French nuclear testing ("No fuss please, we're British", 8 September), you will permit me to set the record straight. In the wake of Tuesday's test, Tony Blair took a lead in roundly condemning the French action. In the strongest possible terms he has criticised the Government's silence, called for an international test ban treaty and described the test programme as unjustifiable.

In a press release, I condemned the test as "a deplorable act" and "a flagrant breach of the spirit of the non-proliferation treaty". I called on the Government to "end its silence, and support Labour in condemning the French nuclear test". I released a second press release, on 7 September, which drew attention directly to the British government's silence and criticised its lack of response. I urged Mr Portillo to "come off the fence and commit the Government to a zero threshold, truly comprehensive, test ban treaty".

Each of these statements was faxed on at least two occasions to the Independent. Unfortunately your paper was not alone among the British media in failing to carry Labour's condemnation of the French action, despite our repeated attempts to put it across.

Under the umbrella of the Party of European Socialists, Labour will shortly present a petition from socialist MPs and MEPs to the French embassy expressing our condemnation of the tests.

I fail to see how Labour's response to the dangerous and outdated folly of nuclear testing can possibly be described as "disappointing in its opposition". Your allegations that Labour has failed to speak or act in criticism of nuclear testing are belied by the facts.

Yours faithfully,

David Clark

MP for South Shields (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

8 September

The writer is shadow secretary for defence.

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