Some people have written to me asking me to oppose the orders for four new submarines to carry the UK’s nuclear deterrent.
Last night I voted with the government to approve the purchase of the vessels. I did so because I campaigned on the Conservative Manifesto without signalling my dispute with this measure in it. I did so because I agree with the government that a submarine force is the best means of retaining an independent deterrent, with at least one submarine always at sea in waters unknown.
Some object because they believe in unilateral nuclear disarmament. The UK has gone a long in way in reducing warheads and missiles as part of the multilateral disarmament undertaken in the post Cold War world. There is no evidence that a single country unilaterally disarming would achieve any reduction in the armaments of other states, but plenty of evidence to show that multilateral agreements do cut the numbers of weapons held by existing nuclear powers.
There is the ever present threat that more states will develop effective nuclear weapons. There is also the outside risk of some such weapons falling into dangerous hands in badly run or strife torn parts of the world. In such a world it does add to our security that we have our own capability.
Some argue there is no point in having them as we will never use them. That is to misunderstand their role as a deterrent. We use them every day by deploying the submarines with them. Everyday they are at sea and we are not threatened by a nuclear power or weapon, the deterrent has worked.
Yesterday’s debate was most unusual. It is not uncommon for groups of backbench MPs to stick to long held principles and express views different to their front bench. It is not easy to go against the party line, but I certainly found it necessary when we were battling to get an EU referendum, and trying to stop the transfer of more powers to the EU. It is almost unprecedented to see the Leader of the Opposition defending his long held view on something as important as nuclear weapons, with most of his party in disagreement. They demanded time and again that he followed the party policy he had inherited. There was something magnificent about his determination to change the policy and stick to his principles when he had so many votes and voices against him, even though I disagree with his viewpoint.