Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
16 JANUARY 2007
Q40 Mr Crausby: You go on in your
White Paper to say that the money could be spent on conventional
defence. Do you really take that position? To be fair, you mention
that it should be spent on other things as well, but does CND
take the view that there is a real alternative on conventional
defence and that this £70-odd million that you calculate
should be spent on conventional defence?
Mr Kent: CND is a broad church.
It includes pacifists and it includes people who are highly just
war and ex military. There is an air commodore member of CND who
would certainly take the position that we should be spending more
money on conventional military defence. There would be Quaker
members of CND who would say, "No, not at all." It is
a wide open field, really, in that respect. It is certainly not
Q41 Mr Crausby: I accept there are
different views, but I am asking for yours. What do the witnesses
feel about that? Do they see that as a real argument, that the
money should be spent on conventional defence or is it a throwaway
Mr Kent: My own view is that I
am a citizen of a country which believes in military defence and
I feel I have to conform to the situation we are in and I would
not want to see young British troops, or old British troops, being
sent anywhere not properly equipped. That is my position, even
though I do not believe in warfare and I believe we should be
looking for non violent solutions to problems. In the interim,
the people who are engaged in this sort of thing on our behalf
should be properly protected. That is my position and I am sure
many within CND would agree with it.
Q42 Mr Crausby: What about other
witnesses, do they believe that the money would be better spent
on conventional defence?
Mr Kent: Then they would have
no argument with my air commodore. I cannot nail down everybody
in CND to a particular point of view on this. There are different
Mr Ainslie: Representing the Scottish
CND, it is the same. There is a range of views and they would
keep that in as an option. Personally, I am a conscientious objector,
so I am not in favour of military expenditure. But that is a personal
view. I am just stating what my personal position is.
Q43 Mr Crausby: I was trying to establish
whether that is a serious argument, that we should not spend the
money on a replacement for the Trident platform but we should
spend the money and replace that by conventional defence. Or is
it just a command that is inserted in the alternative White Paper
to strengthen the argument. Does anybody think that we should
not spend the money on a Trident replacement but spend all of
the money or part of the money on conventional defence?
Mr Kent: Some people in the country
certainly think that.
Q44 Mr Crausby: Do any of the witnesses
Ms Jones: That is the sort of
discussion that we would have if we were to have a meaningful
debateas suggested by Tony Blair, I do not know how meaningful
that debate would beabout whether we want to be a war-fighting
or a peace-keeping country and then that would be integral to
it. It would be one of the issues that was discussed. It is not
really being put forward to us as an option and the Government
have not put it forward as an option in the White Paper. It is
something that could be discussed, whatever our personal or political
situation is on the use of armed force. It is something that should
be discussed and people should be given the opportunity to make
decisions about that with all the information available to them
about what the amounts of money would buy in terms of nuclear
defence, conventional defence or other things that we might think
it would be more worthwhile to spend that money on.
Q45 Mr Crausby: It is reasonable
to argue for a debate, but, as leading members of the peace movement,
how would you plead that debate? Would you argue that the money
should be spent on conventional defence rather than on nuclear
defence or would you simply argue that we should not spend the
Ms Jones: I personally would argue
that that money would be invested in working out how we can resolve
conflict internationally without drawing on recourse to violence.
£76 billion worth of investment on how to keep the peace
would be a wonderful way to spend that money.
Q46 Mr Crausby: That is a perfectly
reasonable position. I just want to know whether members of the
peace movement are arguing not to spend the money on nuclear but
to spend the money on conventional, or whether they are arguing
in general not to spend the money on either nuclear or conventional.
Mr Kent: I am just saying to you
that there are differences of opinion. Some would be for spending
it on conventional weapons, some would be for spending it on non
violent security measures. I think we are entitled to have a difference
of opinion on the expenditure.
Q47 Mr Crausby: I am asking these
witnesses. Do any of these witnesses believe that this money,
as opposed to being spent on the Trident replacement, should be
spent on conventional defence?
Mr Kent: Certainly there are.
I mentioned an air commodoreand I am not going to give
his name. There are a number of people in CND who would certainly
take that position, and in the wider peace movement. CND is not
the only part of the peace movement. You refer to the "peace
movement". There are Generals for PeaceGod knows,
there are all sorts of different organisations included under
the "peace movement".
Ms Jones: I think we need a far
more rigorous analysis of what our security needs are and then
to develop strategies that are appropriate to addressing the particular
security needs of the United Kingdom but also the more general
security needs of the community of which we are a part.
Q48 Mr Hancock: Surely the White
Paper and the Prime Minister's statement have attempted to divorce
the two issues. It is not even the latest debate that is initiated.
The deterrent is taken out of that debate. You would agree with
Ms Jones: It is extremely surprising
that you can talk about Trident without actually talking about
it in the context of security more generally. It seems really
strange that there should be two separate discussions going on
about whether we want nuclear weapons and whether we want to be
war-fighting or peace-keeping. For me, they are all part of the
Mr Hancock: We are a war-fighting country
and the debate, I am sure, will end up coming to that conclusion.
But there is also this debate about whether or not a nuclear deterrent
in fact secures you from a nuclear attack. The Prime Minister
is of the opinion that that is still a legitimate threat to the
Chairman: I would like to move on to
Robert Key on that issue.
Q49 Robert Key: Could I reassure
Sian Jones that all of the members of this Committee have for
many years been looking at all aspects of security. I was a member
of the Defence Committee ten years ago that produced a report
on the southern flank of NATO when we were saying that issues
such as economic migration, the use of water, of food, and security
issues were integral to the security of our nation. I think it
is wrong of you, if I may say so, to assume that we are only interested
in nuclear, but this inquiry is into a very particular, very narrow
aspect of our defence. Could I broaden the questioning now to
inquire of your views on the insurance policy aspect here, that
the nuclear deterrent is seen as an insurance policy as part of
our defence system. Do you think that maintaining a deterrent
is in fact a useful insurance policy?
Mr Kent: I think it is an insurance
policy that ensures greater danger for this country because you
do not take out an insurance policy against house subsidence that
contributes to the subsidence of your house. It would be a bit
peculiar if you did. I think possessing and continuing nuclear
weapons into the middle of this century is a recipe for further
danger and threat from other countries who take the same position
about us, about security. I think it is not an insurance policy
that is valid.
Q50 Robert Key: Who is going to change
their aggressive stance towards us and the international community
if we do not renew Trident? Will al-Qaeda be impressed and change
their ways if we do not replace Trident?
Ms McDonald: I do have the view
that nuclear weapons are irrelevant to terrorists. The nuclear
weapons based in the UK are the easiest target and pose the real
risk of terrorist attack involving nuclear weapons. That should
be eliminated as a risk if we are serious about the security of
citizens in the UK. On the question of the insurance policy, I
agree with what Bruce says, that it is a simile that falls as
soon as you look at it, but there is an insurance policy that
we could take upthat we are already signed up to and other
countries are tooand that is the non proliferation treaty.
But of course it only works if you read the small print and comply
with it. That is what we need to be doing.
Q51 Robert Key: Which of course the
Government says it is. I do not think there is any question that
the Government says the non proliferation treaty is extremely
important and they are moving towards that. But you contest that.
Ms McDonald: I do.
Mr Kent: You must ask the Government
where they are doing their negotiating.
Q52 Robert Key: What do you think
public opinion says about their insurance policy argument? I think
most people would say that the British public believes there is
value in having a nuclear deterrent. Do you think the British
public is wrong?
Mr Kent: Yes. I think public opinion
is in two minds. If you put to public opinion, as we have done:
"Should you spend £75 billion or £25 billion and
not spend it on the Post Office or National Health or whatever?"
then overwhelmingly they say we should spend it on social needs.
If you say: "Should we be the only country to get rid of
nuclear weapons while others still have them and therefore be
under threat?" then, indeed, public opinion will go in the
other direction. But public opinion has to rely on what it gets
in terms of information. When you get documents like this, which
assume 110% the validity of nuclear deterrence, the public are
going to believe it, and I do not believe it to be true.
Q53 Robert Key: Chairman, for 30
years Bruce Kent and I have been arguing about these things. I
am afraid I still think of you as a parish priest in Camden. When
I was fighting Frank Dobson for his seat there in the 1979 elections,
we used to meet in your parish church kitchen, I recall, from
time to time.
Mr Kent: I was of great political
advantage to you, really! I assisted you in your career.
Q54 Robert Key: Thank you very much.
I believe you did, sir. But I still think of you, if I may say
so, as a parish priest, as a Christian, and I am very interested
in this Christian point of view and I think it is very important.
I would like to ask you this: I think I am right in saying that
Pax Christi takes the view that nuclear weapons are morally and
theologically wrong and it is a very simple issue, therefore,
if you take that on board. I, of course, as a member of the Church
of England, have a rather more difficult problem because the Archbishop
of Canterbury says, "Yes, they are wrong" but on Thought
for the Day on the Today programme the other day the
Bishop of Liverpool said that the genie cannot be put back in
the bottle and we have to live in the real world and we have nuclear
weapons. Who is right? The Archbishop of Canterbury or the Bishop
of Liverpool? Can you help me?
Mr Kent: Yes, I commend you to
the Pope. It is time you raised your sights! He said at the beginning
of this year that nuclear weapons were fallacious and nuclear
policies were baneful, and that is the strongest position from
any Christian leader so far. John can say the entire Scotch hierarchy
and the Church of Scotland are totally opposed to it, many Church
of England bishops are opposed to it. I am sure you will be able
to convert the Bishop of Liverpool in due course
Mr Ainslie: Certainly the Church
of Scotland's position is very strong on this, that is it morally
and theologically wrong. In addition, Cardinal O'Brien, the leader
of the Scottish Catholic Church, his line, in slogan terms, is
to replace Trident with projects that bring lives to the poor.
Q55 Robert Key: That is an aspiration
to which I am sure we all live up. Can I pursue the Scottish dimension
to this? In your evidence to the Committee the Scottish Campaign
for Nuclear Disarmament made very interesting points about the
Scottish dimension and pointed out that the Scottish National
Party and Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament were opposed
to the replacement and that the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament
only won a motion by five votes, but, right at the end, you said
this: "The plan to replace Trident and keep nuclear weapons
in Scotland for 50 years will not improve the relationship between
Edinburgh and London. It is likely to be a growing point of contention",
and, today of all days, commemorating the Act of Union, is an
important point, I think, to pursue this for a little bit. It
seems to me quite extraordinary that we are about, apparently,
to have a Scottish Prime Minister, we have a United Kingdom Government
with Scottish members of Parliament in extremely powerful positions
in the CabinetJohn Reid, Alistair Darling, Douglas Alexander
and, indeed, others. Why do not the Scottish people trust Scottish
MPs and a Scottish Prime Minister on this issue?
Mr Ainslie: The opinion polls
show quite clearly that there is a stronger opposition to nuclear
weapons in Scotland than south of the border by about 10%, so
the anti-nuclear feeling is basically stronger. There is simply
a difference between the two political processes, I think, between
Westminster and the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Parliament
is more varied and there you are going to work with coalitions.
Q56 Robert Key: That is not my question
at all. You are side-stepping it. The question is: why do not
the Scottish electors who would put Gordon Brown in the position
of being the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom trust him and
his judgment and the judgment of his fellow Scots elected MPs
when it comes to this decision?
Mr Ainslie: An anonymous survey
of all the Scottish MPs by the BBC found that 30 out of the 59
were saying that they were definitely opposed.
Q57 Robert Key: This is the Westminster
Mr Ainslie: The majority of the
Westminster MPs. I am not totally convinced whether that will
materialise when it come to the vote.
Q58 Robert Key: It would not be enough
to change the mind of the Government, would it?
Mr Ainslie: No, but I think what
is a real prospect is that the Scottish Parliament, at some point
in the future, in the longer term, is going to turn round and
say, "No, we are opposed to this." The current position
is that the Scottish Parliament maybe does not have much power
and is looking at ways it might do something about it, but is
that then making life more difficult? I am sure Jack McConnell
would far rather he did not have this situation and being put
in the position of forcing one of his ministers to resign over
Chairman: I think we had better move
on. I am relieved we have got off the theological basis for violence
and nuclear weapons and everything. Let us move on. David Crausby.
Q59 Mr Crausby: Thank you, Chairman.
Proliferation for me is the more serious threat, on the face of
it. Given that countries like Iran and North Korea at least appear
to be interested in developing nuclear weapons, some people would
argue that this is completely the wrong time for us to reduce
our commitment to nuclear defence. How would you respond to that?
Mr Kent: It is exactly the right
time to start getting those countries round the table. How can
we possibly lecture those countries about acquiring nuclear weapons
while we are in the process of saying that we think they are essential
for our security. I think it is exactly the right time to begin
international negotiations involving those countries, because
at the moment they are extremely cynical about our performance.