LABOUR has been accused of going back on its commitment to renew the Trident nuclear deterrent in preparation for making a deal with the Scottish Nationalists to get back into power after the next election.
Tory Defence Secretary Michael Fallon suggested the Labour leadership’s decision to abstain on a motion put forward by the SNP and the Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru to scrap the system was a sign it is preparing to strike a deal.
The motion was defeated by 365 to 35 votes last night, with the majority of Labour MPs abstaining.
The SNP had accused Labour of “snubbing” their debate about the nuclear weapons based on the Clyde, which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said would be “the red line issue” for any post-election deal at Westminster.
But Mr Fallon suggested Labour was instead preparing to ditch Trident, despite denials by his shadow,Vernon Coaker.
Mr Fallon accused Labour leader Ed Miliband of going back on his party’s commitment to maintain the “minimum credible” nuclear deterrent continuously at sea because he was courting the SNP. And he asked if Labour “would be prepared to trade our security if that was the price of power” and a deal with the SNP in May.
But Mr Coaker said there was “no change” to Labour’s position, which is to include Trident as part of the next strategic defence and security review. And he said Labour was committed to a “continuous at-sea deterrent”.
Several Labour back-benchers, including Scottish affairs select committee chairman Ian Davidson, were proposing to defy their leadership and vote with the SNP on scrapping Trident.
Earlier, SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson told MPs the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had the “wrong priorities”, investing billions in nuclear weapons which it could never use, but not properly managing conventional armed forces.
He said a further £261 million had been “re-profiled” to be spent on the project before 2016, when MPs are due to take a decision on authorising construction of new submarines, “confirming that Trident is not subject to the government’s austerity agenda”.
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Mr Robertson said: “The time has come to put down a marker about scrapping Trident and not replacing these weapons of mass destruction.”
He said each UK Trident sub carried eight missiles with up to five warheads, or a total of 40, each with the power of 100 kilotons, or eight times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 which killed an estimated 240,000 people.
He said: “I’ve yet to hear a supporter of Trident convincingly explain in what circumstances they are prepared to justify the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children and cause massive environmental damage to the world for generations to come.”
But Mr Fallon said: “We can’t gamble with our national security. We have to plan for a major direct nuclear threat to this country or to our Nato allies that might emerge over the 50 years that the next generation of our submarines will be in service.”
He pointed to Russia, North Korea and Iran and stressed the world could not simply “dis-invent” the 17,000 nuclear weapons in circulation globally.
Mr Fallon called the SNP’s position not to renew Trident “irresponsible”.
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