Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn on scrapping Trident and leaving Nato: 'I don't think that is going to happen'

The Shadow Foreign Secretary told Andrew Marr that 'there'll be a debate - and Jeremy is encouraging that'

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
Sunday 20 September 2015 11:45
Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn on The Andrew Marr Show
Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn on The Andrew Marr Show

Labour’s newly-appointed Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn has revealed he does not believe the party will back nuclear disarmament or Britain’s withdrawal from Nato despite Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory for the leadership in which he carried the policies as part of his manifesto.

Appearing on The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Benn was asked whether he would serve in the Shadow Cabinet should the party vote in both the policies, and answered: “I don’t think that is going to happen”.

Mr Benn told Andrew Marr: “My view is that we need to maintain an independent nuclear deterrent. I share with Jeremy the wish to see a world that is free of nuclear weapons but I don’t believe for one second that if Briton were to give up its deterrent any other of the nuclear states would give theirs up.”

He added that Britain needs a “continuous at-sea deterrent, we need to do it in the most cost-effective way, and that is the view which the Labour party, including the Labour party conference, has taken for many years now”.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary said that ultimately it will be the Labour party conference that decides, “but there’ll be a debate and Jeremy is encouraging that”.

In terms of Labour backing Britain’s withdrawal from Nato, Mr Benn said “I simply don’t see that happening”.

“We have been members of Nato since it was created - in part with the support of the Labour government at the end of the Second World War that created the NHS, and Ernie Bevin was the Foreign Secretary that helped make it happen - and it has been a cornerstone of our security and I simply don’t see that happening.”

Mr Corbyn has recently softened his position on leaving Nato due to the lack of support on the issue and has instead called for a “serious debate” on its powers.

Last week Labour’s new Deputy Leader Tom Watson said he aimed to “convince” Mr Corbyn of the merits of Nato, and touched upon the difference of opinion within the party over Trident, which he believes has “kept the peace in the world for half a century”.

“We have got to find ways of alighting on policy, and if you’re a democratic party you’ve got to have that debate and I’m sure Trident is one of those issues where we’ll do that,” he told Mr Marr.

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