HC Deb 22 March 1999 vol 328 cc12-3
11. Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

What targets the UK's Trident submarine missiles are aimed at. [75975]

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. George Robertson)

As I have made it clear before, our Trident missiles are de-targeted.

Mr. Corbyn

If the missiles are not targeted at anyone, will the Secretary of State explain what they are for? Why is it necessary to spend billions of pounds on building and maintaining a nuclear submarine fleet when there is no enemy against which to target it, and when launching Trident would cause a global explosion and the extermination of most of the human race? Furthermore, many people think that the whole issue of nuclear weapons is fundamentally immoral and—within the terms of the International Court of Justice judgment of two years ago—illegal. Is it not time that we decommissioned them, took them out of service and cancelled the whole programme?

Mr. Robertson

My hon. Friend is perfectly entitled to take that point of view, but should always remember that he fought the previous general election on retaining Trident. A pledge to do so was in both the general election manifesto and the draft manifesto, which was endorsed by 95 per cent. of the Labour party. Insurance is the answer to his simple question about why we need the missiles—which, today, are de-targeted. In the future, neither we nor anyone else can tell what dangers will exist in an increasingly unstable world. That is why we have those missiles. My hon. Friend also says that a growing opinion holds that nuclear arms should be done away with and that they are illegal. I tell him that, at the weekend, in Newcastle, I attended a Labour party policy forum, at which only one question about nuclear weapons was asked. The party member said that we had not got enough of them, and that one submarine on patrol was not enough. No one demurred.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

Will the Secretary of State put my mind at rest? Is the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) a lone voice in the wilderness, or does the Labour party in government still insist on its campaign for nuclear disarmament?

Mr. Robertson

The hon. Lady clearly prepared that question in advance. She was therefore unaware of what I would say, and did not bother listening to my answer. The Labour party fought the general election on the basis that we would keep Trident. We are committed also to further reductions and to moving towards a world without nuclear weapons. We are fulfilling both those objectives in what we have said and in the proposals that we have made in the strategic defence review.