I want a world in which there are no nuclear weapons and no-one wants to be in the position of having to contemplate their use. We all know from Hiroshima and Nagasaki about their terrible destructive power.

The question is this: how do we create such a world? I believe strongly in nuclear disarmament, but it has to come through multilateral negotiation and not unilateral disarmament. Patient negotiation has, after all, been how the world has dramatically reduced the number of nuclear warheads in the last 35 years and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has played an important part in preventing the further spread of these weapons. There is also no prospect that, if we did abandon our deterrent, other nuclear weapon states or those seeking to acquire them would be persuaded to give up theirs.

On nuclear deterrence, the evidence since the end of the Second World War is that it has worked, and every Labour Prime Minister since Clement Attlee has supported the maintenance of our nuclear deterrent. Others, most famously Nye Bevan, changed their mind on the issue and came to oppose unilateralism.

Although some threats may now have diminished, in the still dangerous world in which we live we would be taking a risk if we unilaterally gave up our deterrent.  Can we be absolutely sure about the threats we may face in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time?

Having said all this, and recognising that Labour’s manifesto at the last election committed us to maintain the deterrent, there will now be a debate about the future of our defence policy, including Trident replacement, and it will be for Conference ultimately to decide how to reconcile conflicting opinions within the Party. I recognise that this is an argument which is balanced and I greatly respect those people, like Jeremy Corbyn, who have come to a different conclusion.


Rt Hon Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central

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