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Speech in Scottish Parliament Murdo Fraser

14 June 2007

Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con): Ladies and gentlemen—I mean Presiding Officer. [Laughter.] I am in the wrong forum all of a sudden. I am back at the student union.

It is disappointing that as their first subject for debate in this session the Greens have picked a reserved issue—not just any reserved issue but one that, as Mr Harvie said, the Parliament has debated many times before. I am not sure whether any more light will be shed on the issue than was shed on previous occasions. The reality is that no matter what the Parliament resolves at 5 o'clock, it will mean nothing whatever. This is a massive exercise in self-indulgence on the part of the Greens and their supporters in the Parliament. It means nothing.

I came along this morning hoping that the Labour Party in Scotland might have rediscovered its backbone. I was sadly mistaken. There was little evidence of that backbone during the recent election campaign, when I sat in hustings meetings with various Labour candidates—some of whom are here today—in different parts of the country. By remarkable coincidence, not a single Labour candidate with whom I shared a platform during the election campaign supported the Labour Party's policy on Trident. Every single one of them seemed to oppose it.

I hoped that this morning we might hear Labour Party members defend party policy on Trident—a policy that has often been stated in the House of Commons. Sadly, even the redoubtable Mr McMahon was disappointing. In his speech—which lasted five minutes, with lots of interventions—he said not a word about the substantive issue of Trident. If Labour Party members will not do so themselves, it is, again, left to the Conservatives to defend the position of the Labour Government at Westminster.

George Foulkes: Will the member give way?

Murdo Fraser: I will happily give way to someone who may be prepared to defend the position of the Labour Government.

George Foulkes: Will the member first of all confirm that he did not appear on any platform with me, so that I am excused?

I am prepared to defend our position, but I will defend it in a forum that has responsibility for the issue, and not here, where we have no such responsibility. I do not believe that we should turn the Parliament into a protest movement, which is what some members of other parties want. I hope that Murdo Fraser realises that he is contradicting himself. First of all, he says that we should not discuss the issue; then he says that Labour Party members have no backbone because we have not lodged a substantive amendment. He cannot have it both ways.

Murdo Fraser: I appreciate that Lord Foulkes is a relative newcomer to the chamber, but he will be aware that we have debated reserved issues on many occasions in the past—as indeed, to be fair, do other fora throughout the land, such as local councils. I do not have a particular problem with debating Trident, but we should get on with debating the real issue, about which we have heard very little in the previous two speeches.

I wish that we lived in a world without nuclear weapons—a world in which they had not been invented or in which they could be uninvented. However, we do not, and neither of those things is possible. So long as others have nuclear weapons, we should retain them. I remember the debates in the 1980s about unilateral nuclear disarmament. The debates today are not so different—only the faces of the unilateralists have changed. Back then, Tony Blair, John Reid and Jack McConnell had all signed up to CND and were all opposed our nuclear deterrent—all of them wrong to a man. They now accept the error of their ways, because the Conservatives won that debate. They have been converted to our cause. I believe that we should retain our nuclear deterrent because we live in an increasingly uncertain world. We do not know where the threats are coming from, and we do not know where the rogue states might be that threaten our security in 30 or 40 years' time. It would be madness to give up our deterrent at this time.

The unilateralists were wrong in the 1980s and they are wrong today. It would be foolhardy for us to give up our nuclear weapons unilaterally. We should reject the Green motion and, even if the Labour Party are too feart to make the arguments their party stands for, they can still serve their party's will.

I move amendment S3M-169.1, to leave out from "congratulates" to end and insert:

"notes that defence matters are wholly reserved to Scotland's other Parliament at Westminster and that on 14 March 2007 a majority of MPs voted for the replacement of Trident."