Submission to Defence Select Committee on future of Trident by mirit35

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									Submission to Defence Select Committee on the future of Trident

1 .Introduction
1.1 The Religious Society of Friends in Britain is a religious denomination with 16,000
members in 470 worshipping communities. We are committed to working for peaceful
and effective responses to violence and social injustice.

1.2 We welcome the opportunity of submitting evidence to the Defence Select
Committee on the Future of Trident but are concerned at the lack of time available for
preparing a submission on an issue of such gravity. A call for evidence, allowing less
than a month for preparation, especially when coinciding with the Christmas recess,
provides inadequate time for the “comprehensive analysis” of the issues that responsible
Government requires. Such haste seems unwarranted in the context of weapons that “will
start to leave service in the early 2020s.”

1.3 The position of the Religious Society of Friends on issues of peace and disarmament
is well known. We are, however, realists. While we continue to work towards our vision
of a peaceful world, we know the world will not be freed of weapons of war in any short
period. We are aware that the UK government, supported by the majority of the
population, will feel obliged to retain at least limited military forces for the foreseeable
future.

1.4 We would advocate, however, that these forces should be strictly defensive, tailored
essentially towards peace-keeping activities. The Religious Society of Friends does not
believe that nuclear weapons can possibly be seen in this light. They cannot be regarded
as a mere defensive deterrent because their maintenance implies at least a conditional
willingness to use them. If it did not they would not be a deterrent.

1.5 Use of such weapons, even in extreme circumstances, would be so heavily
disproportionate to anything less than actual nuclear attack on this country as to be
unthinkable. Actual nuclear attack would be so devastating that retaliation in kind could
serve no purpose and only compound the horror.

1.6 We affirm the comments of the Archbishop of Canterbury that “ … these are still
weapons that are intrinsically indiscriminate in their lethal effects, and their long-term
impact on a whole physical environment would be horrendous.” We welcome and affirm
the clear position of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland that the
UK should relinquish its nuclear weapons.

1.7 We do not consider that the White Paper amounts to “a careful review of all the issues
and options” that is referred to in its introduction. We ask the Government to learn from
the defects of Parliamentary accountability in relation to the Chevaline programme and to
provide for rigorous, transparent and accountable public debate.

1.8 We urge the Government, MPs and members of the electorate to which the
government is accountable, to respond to the grave ethical questions that Dr Williams has
raised regarding the morality, legality, and the strategic requirement for nuclear weapons.
We hope that the Defence Select Committee will require the Secretary of State for
Defence to respond to these questions in detail.

2 Morality
2.1 The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) has a long history of seeking peaceful
solutions to intractable political problems. We are committed to an understanding of
security that recognises the inherent, absolute worth of every person. Our commitment to
disarmament is rooted in a Christian understanding of hope that is incompatible with a
willingness to use weapons of mass destruction. We are unequivocally opposed to the
possession of nuclear weapons and cannot envisage any context in which the use of
nuclear weapons could be justified. We unite with the increasing concern felt among the
Churches regarding Britain’s maintenance of a nuclear weapons system. We note the
clear position of the Church of Scotland in opposition to Trident and note that many who
had previously supported a concept of deterrence now no longer consider that the
arguments are sufficient to justify the UK’s maintenance of nuclear weapons.

3 Legality
3.1 The Non Proliferation Treaty, to which the UK is a signatory, essentially requires that
nuclear weapons states should take steps towards disarmament in return for those states
that do no have nuclear weapons undertaking not to develop them. Article VI includes the
provision that “Parties to the Treaty undertake to pursue negotiations in good faith on
effective measures to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear
disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and
effective control.” We consider that the replacement of Trident is incompatible with these
obligations. A replacement programme sends the unedifying message that such weapons
systems are morally acceptable. It would encourage other States to develop these
weapons systems and undermine a rules’ based system that is at the heart of the
international rule of law. We ask the Secretary of State to address both the questions of
whether its programme is in breach of the letter and spirit of NPT obligations and the
following specific concerns:

I. Nuclear weapons could never be used within the jus in bellum requirements of
necessity and proportionality.

II. The Government has failed to specify scenarios in which the use of nuclear weapons
could comply with International Humanitarian Law prohibitions on indiscriminate
attacks.

III. Article VI is a pivotal provision of the Non Proliferation Treaty such that a breach of
the provision would amount to a breach of the Treaty. Any broadening of the scope of
deterrence policy would amount to a breach of Article VI and consequently of the Treaty
itself. The Government proposes the following steps to broaden deterrence policy:
deterrence against non-nuclear attack; use as an insurance system against unspecified
future threats; enhancement of targeting policy. The Government proposals would
consequently breach the Non Proliferation Treaty.
4 Strategic requirement
We note that the White Paper does not consider the impact that renewing nuclear
weapons could have on nuclear proliferation. A decision to enhance nuclear weapons
would, in our opinion, undermine the UK`s opposition to access to nuclear weapons by
other states. We note also that the White Paper does not address the issue of
proportionality and necessity. The White Paper does not contain an adequate analysis and
assessment of what the Government considers are current threats requiring the
maintenance of a nuclear weapons system. It is the responsibility of a democratic
Government to respond to the arguments and views of those with whom it disagrees. The
essence of the Government case for maintaining nuclear weapons appears to be that “on
our current analysis, we cannot rule out the risk either that a major direct threat to the
UK’s vital interest will re-emerge or that new states will emerge that possess a more
limited nuclear capability, but one that could pose a grave threat to our vital interests.”
An insurance system against unspecified threats does not amount to a compelling case for
“a strategic requirement,” particularly when the UK’s possession of nuclear weapons
would only compound such uncertainty. We unite with the submission of the Baptist,
Methodist and United Reformed Church that the logic supporting the use of nuclear
weapons to insure against future threats would seem to lead us inevitably down the road
to nuclear proliferation.

5 Economic
We consider it scandalous that while resources can be found for a nuclear weapons’
system costing tens of billions of pounds the Government is still not able to meet the UN
target of spending 0.7% of GNP on international development. A small fraction of the
resources needed to maintain weapons of mass destruction could transform the lives of
millions in the developing world and help to build long-term sustainable security.
Resources in the UK could be spent on hospitals, schools and creating economic
opportunities for the young and deprived. Within armed forces expenditure, the resources
spent on nuclear weapons could be used to develop armed forces suitable for a peace-
keeping role.

6 Conclusion
We consider that the decision to replace the Trident Nuclear Weapons system is wrong in
principle and that the process of decision-making has been flawed. We urge the Defence
Select Committee to ensure that the decision to renew Trident is reconsidered in a calm
and thoughtful environment that engages with the ethical issues raised by the full
spectrum of civil society, Churches and faith communities. The White Paper should be
the starting point for a wide ranging public debate on our future security needs and
should not be used as a means of closing down political debate.

Michael Bartlet
Parliamentary Liaison Secretary, QPSW Religious Society of Friends (Quakers),
Friends House, 173 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ January 15th 2007

								
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