Nuclear weapons have almost been launched accidentally 13 times – it’s time to stop believing in the fantasy that Trident keeps us safe

The £100bn we use to uphold this Cold War relic could instead be used for schools, hospitals and guaranteeing new jobs in renewable energy for the 11,000 people whose jobs are currently dependent on it

Caroline Lucas@CarolineLucas
Monday 18 July 2016 12:15
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The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon in Faslane last month, visiting nuclear submarine HMS Vigilant
The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon in Faslane last month, visiting nuclear submarine HMS Vigilant

Today, MPs will be making a decision that will define Britain’s place in the world for generations to come. Either we replace our multi-billion pound Trident missile capability or we join the vast majority of other countries in the world and become a nuclear weapons-free state.

The vote takes place at a time of heightened tension across the world, and the security of our country should be at the forefront of every MP’s mind when they walk through the voting lobbies this evening.

It is my firm view, based on the best available evidence, that renewing Trident will not only fail to improve Britain’s security, but in fact poses significant dangers to us. These weapons of mass destruction have the potential to cause death on an unimaginable scale, and they do nothing to hinder the real threat of lone gunmen or extremists. Their very presence here – and the transport of nuclear warheads on our roads – is not only a target for terrorism but a continued risk of accidents linked to human error or technical failure. A recent report from Chatham House confirms this threat, listing 13 occasions from across the world when nuclear weapons were nearly launched accidentally. These weapons present a huge risk – and there’s no evidence to suggest they keep us any safer.

If we’re serious about ridding the world of nuclear weapons and fulfilling our obligations under the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, then genuine disarmament is non-negotiable. Keeping these weapons sends a dangerous signal to the rest of the world that security is dependent on being able to use weapons of mass destruction, and thus drives proliferation.

The UN is currently working on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Britain can play a part in ridding the world of these weapons, but not if we refuse to lay down our own nuclear arms.

Trident isn’t only a security risk. It’s also a colossal waste of precious resources. Instead of spending over £100bn on this Cold War relic we could invest in what our armed forces really need: the best possible safety equipment and decent homes for service families. And we could use the funds to bolster our ailing public services too: giving vital extra money to schools and hospitals.

Corbyn discusses nuclear weapons and trident

If we scrap Trident, we need to guarantee the jobs and economic security of those working at Faslane, Aldermaston and elsewhere. A Defence Diversification Agency would help ensure a just transition for the 11,000 people whose jobs are directly dependent on Trident.

And there is no shortage of alternative industry. Investing in renewable energy would create millions more jobs than nuclear weapons will ever will. The Clyde region – home to the UK’s nuclear weapons system – is a hub in Scotland for the renewable energy industry. The West Coast of Scotland is by far the best site for wave technology in the UK.

Trident has become a totem in Britain. For many MPs it signifies safety and security, when it offers nothing of the sort. Arguments in favour of Trident are so bound to a particular, narrow view of “Britain’s place in the world” that clear evidence is often dismissed out of hand.

So before voting, I’d urge MPs to think about this: would you vote for Trident if we didn’t have it already? Imagine you were presented with plans for a brand new weapon that could kill millions but would never be used, that contravenes international treaties and that presents a genuine risk to our population, and takes precious money away from our vital public services. Would you even consider voting for such a proposal if those weapons weren’t already in place?

Britain’s history as a nuclear weapons state does not have to dictate our future. These missiles shouldn’t be our bargaining chip on the world stage. I am voting against Trident because I believe that we are safer without weapons of mass destruction in our country. I hope a majority of MPs join me in doing the same.

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