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Lib Dem policy on Trident


The Liberal Democrat Party will discuss its position on nuclear weapons as part of a debate on a new security strategy at their annual conference in Bournemouth on Saturday 15 September.  The proposal is that the UK should take advantage of the 2010 Non Proliferation Treaty review to make progress towards nuclear disarmament. 

The motion to the Conference says that the UK should fullfill its obligation to negotiate in good faith towards nuclear disarmament by halving the number of Trident warheads deployed at sea and

"Announcing its willingness to renounce the Trident system and any successor by agreement at the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty review".


The Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth on Saturday 15 September will debate the party's proposed new policy on Security and Liberty in a Globalised World. The motion includes the following section on nuclear weapons:

Proliferation of weapons, including nuclear weapons, presents a profound threat to security,and therefore, building on previous Liberal Democrat policy, including conference motion The Future of BritainÂ’s Nuclear Deterrent (March 2007), that Britain should:

a) Reinvigorate multilateral arms reduction talks, particularly in small arms, putting in place more rigorous monitoring of arms exports and licence applications, ending export credit guarantees and the use of public money to promote arms sales, and reviewing antibribery legislation to expose and prevent corruption in arms sales by British and Britishbased companies.

b) Support an international ban on landmines and encourage allies to negotiate, ratify and implement a ban on the use of all cluster munitions.

c) Fulfill its obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to negotiate in good faith towards nuclear disarmament through:

i) A major reduction of its nuclear arsenal by approximately 50%, retaining no more than 100 warheads, with each Trident submarine carrying no more than 24 warheads when on deterrence patrol.

ii) Announcing its willingness to renounce the Trident system and any successor by agreement at the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty review.

d) Place its nuclear deterrent under international inspection and work towards a joint negotiating position with France at the review conference.

The policy paper which will be discussed includes the following section on nuclear weapons:

Making Nuclear Weapons History

8.6.1 Liberal Democrats believe that Britain must be in the vanguard of the struggle to make nuclear weapons history. Although the tension of the Cold War may be over, the legacy of that era in the form of huge stockpiles of weaponry, particularly in Russia and the US, remains a significant threat to international security. The risk of accidental detonation or explosion of a nuclear device or of materials falling into the hands of terrorists or countries of concern is a real threat. The proliferation of nuclear weapons technology presents a profound threat to international security.

8.6.2 The climate for nuclear disarmament has been poor in recent years. The unilateral actions of the Bush administration have been divisive. Its missile defence programme contributed to the set back of arms control agreements with Russia; the decisions to invade Iraq on a pretext of mass destruction while avoiding military confrontation with North Korea have arguably given non-nuclear states a rational excuse to pursue nuclear weapons.

8.6.3 In this context, the 2010 Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference presents a critical opportunity for the international community to set in train a process of further disarmament and arms control agreements to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons. Although a relatively small nuclear power, Britain remains a nation of considerable influence and must play a leading role at the conference. It is essential that the 2010 talks make real progress towards a nuclear-free world.

8.6.4 The fundamental principle on which the NPT is based, that nuclear powers will reduce their arsenals in return for others not developing nuclear weapons is at risk. If todayÂ’s nuclear powers are to convince other states that it is not in their interests to have such weapons then they must show that they are prepared to take serious measures to reduce and eventually eradicate their own arsenals, and also to back new international control regimes such as the tighter inspection and monitoring of the uranium enrichment process and a halt to the production of fissile material.

8.6.5 In order to kick-start those talks, Liberal Democrats are committed to Britain taking the lead in working towards global disarmament at the 2010 conference by making a 50% cut in BritainÂ’s nuclear arsenal and retaining a multilateral negotiating position on further warhead reductions and any future system replacement for Trident. A final decision on the manufacture of a successor system does not need to be taken until 2014. Britain has a window of opportunity to show courage and conviction at the conference, and take the lead.

8.6.6 Liberal Democrats welcome President SarkozyÂ’s recent proposals to reduce the French nuclear arsenal. As two-fifths of the UN Security Council together, with closely aligned national security interests, Britain and France should work towards a joint negotiating position at the review conference, representing a European perspective on nuclear disarmament.

8.6.7 Respected voices in the US security establishment including George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn have recently called for America to re-engage in the nuclear disarmament agenda and to show leadership on the world stage. It is to be hoped that the next President of the United States will heed their call, believing that the US, along with Russia, must set early deadlines for reducing their own nuclear stockpiles. We welcome the recent agreement by President Bush and President Putin to begin talks on an extension of the START nuclear weapons reduction programme. But more can be done to enhance security and reduce the risk of accident. Any remnants of the Cold War posture that contribute to security or risk of accident should be eliminated.

8.6.8 We remain sceptical that the current US missile defence programme, seemingly intended to protect the US against a potential Iranian threat, will enhance regional or global security. The controversy over missile defence in Europe and between Russia and the US has sapped vital political energy from the arms control agenda. Whilst we are encouraged that the programme now has the wider backing of NATO, it is essential that intense effort is made to extend multilateral support for the programme, particularly to Russia and China.

8.6.9 Liberal Democrats believe that despite the US National Intelligence Estimate, which judged “with high confidence” that Iran halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, the US, EU and UN Security Council must continue to take a robust approach in dealing with Iran.7 However, Britain, and its European partners, should grasp the opportunity of the forthcoming change of US Administration to push for constructive dialogue with Iran, including a form of comprehensive security guarantee, to persuade Iran to open its nuclear programme to full international inspection.

8.6.10 The 2010 talks should work towards the establishment of a UN agency managed by the IAEA to oversee the provision of nuclear fuels and pave the way for stricter access to nuclear technology. Liberal Democrats would like to see the “Additional Protocol” to the NPT on greater IAEA verification access brought into force. We welcome any push towards a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.

Details of the views of Scottish Liberal Democrat MPs and MSPs on nuclear weapons, and how to contact them are on the Scotland's for Peace website.



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