Senior Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes has said today (26 April) that his party may choose to decommission all the UK government’s nuclear weapons if they take power. His comments display a different emphasis to party leader Nick Clegg’s focus on replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system with a cheaper set of nuclear arms.
In a television interview yesterday, Clegg said that the Liberal Democrats “are not suggesting that we scrap the nuclear deterrent”, adding, ‘Do not vote for the Liberal Democrats if you think we're advocating immediate unilateral nuclear disarmament. We're not.”
But Simon Hughes chose a different approach when questioned this morning by a reporter from the Quaker magazine, The Friend. Hughes said that it is “absolutely possible” that a Liberal Democrat government could choose the option of “no nuclear weapons at all”.
The Liberal Democrats have been attacked by Labour and the Conservatives for opposing a “like-for-like” replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system. But Plaid Cymru, the Scottish National Party and the Greens have criticised them for refusing to rule out nuclear weapons altogether.
A Green Party spokesperson said, “The Liberal Democrats are not anti-nuclear, just anti-Trident”.
But when questioned by The Friend in London today, Hughes emphasised that while his party’s manifesto rules out replacing Trident with a like-for-like system, it otherwise leaves the options open.
“We haven’t made that decision”, he added, explaining that the party would “wait until the [international] disarmament talks” in May.
He said, “Let’s hope that by 2015 we won’t need nuclear weapons at all”.
Hughes, who is on the left of the party, has a more firmly anti-nuclear background than Clegg. It remains to be seen whether the Liberal Democrat leader will back up Hughes’ approach or try to shift the emphasis back to replacing Trident with a different nuclear system.