MPs accused of putting 'nuclear weapons before public services'

By staff writers
January 22, 2015

Westminster politicians have been accused of putting “nuclear weapons before public services” after voting against a motion calling for an end to the Trident nuclear weapons system.

MPs from three parties – the Scottish National Party, the Greens and Plaid Cymru – proposed a motion in the House of Commons on 20 January 2015, calling for Trident not to be renewed. A decision on its renewal is due in 2016.

The motion was defeated by 364 votes to 35, with many Labour MPs following Conservatives into the 'No' lobby, while most Liberal Democrats abstained.

A smaller number of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs, along with one Conservative, voted with the three parties proposing the motion. They were joined by the MPs for the SDLP, Alliance Party of Northern Ireland and the Respect party. Democratic Unionist MPs voted for Trident.

Opponents of Trident were quick to point out that many pro-nuclear MPs had barely attended the debate, turning up only to cast their votes for Trident. The Labour benches were largely empty for much of the debate.

The vote comes a few days ahead of a major anti-Trident rally in London on Saturday (24 January).

Polls consistently show a majority of the public to be opposed to Trident renewal, although both David Cameron and Ed Miliband want to retain it. The Liberal Democrat position is ambiguous, with some Liberal Democrats wanting to replace Trident with a smaller and slightly cheaper nuclear weapons systems. Trident's critics say this would make little difference.

“It is bitterly disappointing to see strong public opinion fall on the deaf ears of Labour and Tory MPs alike,” said Jonathan Edwards, the Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, after the vote.

He described the possibility of spending up to £100 billion on Trident renewal as “morally and financially obscene” at a time of heavy public spending cuts.

Pointing out that over 900,000 people in the UK had been forced to use food banks last year, Edwards said, "The Westminster government would do well to wake up from its imperial hangover and face the reality of what truly threatens our citizens' daily lives in the 21st century”.

Edwards added, “This is the second time in two weeks Labour MPs have followed the Tories through the lobbies. Firstly, last Tuesday, both parties backed billions of further cuts to public services. Today, they reiterated their support for a £100 billion nuclear weapon system.”

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said on Twitter that ministers had failed to answer her question about why, if it is logical for the UK to own nuclear weapons, every other nation should not seek to acquire them too.

The SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens have said jointly that they will push for Trident to be scrapped if a minority Labour government needs their support following a hung parliament after the general election in May.

Meanwhile, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) has predicted that the issue of Trident will “play a huge part” in the election.

CND's Kate Hudson said, “The rapid growth of anti-Trident parties represents a sea-change in British politics. People are fed up with Westminster’s business-as-usual.”

Trident renewal is opposed by a many Christian groups, including the Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church of Wales, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and the United Reformed Church. A number of Anglican and Catholic bishops have also spoken out against Trident.

[Ekk/1]

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