Keir Starmer has highlighted today that new government policy announced by Boris Johnson “breaks the goal of successive Prime Ministers and cross-party efforts to reduce our nuclear stockpile”.
In his response to the integrated review of defence and foreign policy today, the Labour leader said: “I voted for the renewal of Trident and the Labour Party’s support for nuclear deterrents is non-negotiable.”
But he acknowledged and probed the fact that the review unveiled today removes the cap on the number of Trident nuclear warheads that Britain can stockpile by more than 40%, after years of gradual disarmament.
“It doesn’t explain when, why or for what strategic purpose. The Prime Minister needs to answer that question today,” Starmer told the House of Commons. Boris Johnson made false accusations in response.
“It wasn’t so long ago… he was campaigning, very hard, very hard without dissent, to install a leader of the Labour Party as Prime Minister who wanted to withdraw from NATO and disband our armed forces,” Johnson claimed.
Although Jeremy Corbyn personally opposed Trident renewal and criticised NATO, it was not Labour policy to withdraw from NATO or disband the armed forces. “We will maintain our commitment to NATO,” the 2019 manifesto said.
“It’s ridiculous to talk about our nuclear defences,” Johnson added, “when the reality is that Labour is all over the place.” He pointed out that Lisa Nandy and Angela Rayner voted against the government’s motion on Trident renewal.
Labour has recently described its commitment to NATO as “unshakeable” and its support for the UK’s nuclear deterrent as “non-negotiable”, as John Healey set out the party’s core principles on defence and security.
The Shadow Defence Secretary has told LabourList of his plan to win back the trust of the armed forces and said Starmer had asked him to “develop an authoritative Labour voice on defence again”.
The UK Labour leader today said: “We want this integrated review to work. Threats to our national security are increasing, they’re becoming more complex and less predictable. So the government has to get this right.”
While Starmer welcomed the increase in capital funding and new investment in cyber, he also highlighted that the review was built on foundations “that have been weakened over the last decade”.
He also criticised the review for containing “nothing about updating our arms exports regime”, particularly on the demand for the UK to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia amid the war in Yemen.
On the stockpile increase, the review states that a “minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent, assigned to the defence of NATO, remains essential in order to guarantee our security and that of our allies”.
Kate Hudson, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament general secretary, commented: “With the government strapped for cash, we don’t need grandiose, money-wasting spending on weapons of mass destruction.”