The Liberal Democrats have been accused of voting “against their own policy” after they opposed an amendment to the Queen’s Speech to include the Trident nuclear weapons system in the Strategic Defence Review.
While the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg had called several times for Trident to be included in the Review, it was expected that his MPs would abstain on the issue as part of their coalition deal with the Conservative Party. The Tories are adamantly opposed to reviewing Trident.
But Liberal Democrat MPs united with Tories to vote against a motion in the Commons proposed by Green, Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party MPs. It was defeated by 330 votes to 27.
The Labour Party largely abstained in the vote, although a handful of Labour MPs voted for the amendment.
The Liberal Democrats are likely to argue that it was technically an amendment on the Queen’s Speech – the government’s legislative programme – which they had to oppose as they had agreed with the Conservatives to support the Speech.
But Kate Hudson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) said the Liberal Democrats’ decision to vote against the amendment was “not an encouraging sign”.
“Many voters lent their support to the Lib Dems exactly because they saw them as representing something different on issues such as Trident” she insisted, “Lib Dems need to prove they're still serious about opposing the ruinously expensive plans to replace Trident”.
There has been particular criticism of ministers for refusing even to consider reviewing Trident at a time when huge spending cuts are planned.
Hudson added, “It would be a cruel irony if the Lib Dems oversee wide ranging and immediate cuts that they opposed during the election campaign but at the same time oppose even the re-consideration of Trident replacement.”
Green MP Caroline Lucas said, “Nuclear weapons remain a costly distraction from the real security threats we face, like climate change".
She insisted, “To use the money on a project that will make Britain and the world a far more dangerous place is politically irresponsible, morally bankrupt, and economically obscene".
During the first Leader’s Debate in the general election campaign, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said he “simply couldn’t understand” why the Conservative and Labour leaders refused to include Trident in the Strategic Defence Review.