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the Friend INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS – VOL 168 NO 21 3-4 News 3 Government faces questions over Trident policy 4 Purple protest perplexes politicians 5 Maternal mortality Saphia Crowther 6 Our responsibility to protect J Trevor Evans 7 Quaker House Belfast comes to an end – the work for peace must go on Bairbre Nic Aongusa 8-9 Commitment to values in action Paul Henderson 10-13 ‘Question time’ in Colchester: The cost of conflict 14 Letters 16 q-eye: witness 17 Friends & Meetings
Cover image: United States Trident II (D-5) missile underwater launch. Photo: Lockheed Martin/US Department of Defense photo in public domain. Images on this page: Top: Lithuanian Quakers at Baltic PRIDE in Vilnius. Photo: Clare Dimyon. Middle and bottom: Flooding of the Kwalase River in Kenya has cost lives and the main bridge between Lodwar and Kakuma/ Kalokol has been washed away. Photos courtesy of John Lomuria of East Africa Yearly Meeting – North.
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the Friend, 21 May 2010 News
Government faces questions over Trident policy
Symon Hill reports on the latest news on the UK’s nuclear weapons
Days after taking power, the coalition government is under pressure over its policy on the Trident nuclear weapons system.
The coalition appears likely to push ahead with the Conservative Party’s policy of renewing Trident. The Liberal Democrats compromised over the issue during power-sharing negotiations, having previously spoken out against a ‘like-for-like’ Trident replacement.
But Quakers and other campaigners have said that the government’s policy is unclear, following ambiguous wording in the coalition agreement released by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats last week. Only three sentences of the fivepage document relate to nuclear weapons.
They state: ‘The government will be committed to the maintenance of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, and have agreed that the renewal of Trident should be scrutinised to ensure value for money. Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives. We will immediately play a strong role in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review.’
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) called for ‘urgent’ clarification. CND chair Kate Hudson said voters ‘want to know whether and how they [the Liberal Democrats] will continue to scrutinise the process and make a case for non-replacement and disarmament’.
The deal has been interpreted by a number of commentators and politicians to mean that Conservative ministers will renew Trident while respecting the freedom of Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain on the issue.
It remains to be seen whether all Lib Dems will agree to do so rather than vote against Trident. Sam Walton, peace and disarmament programme manager at Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) encouraged ‘all MPs to speak out against Trident at every opportunity, regardless of their party’.
If Lib Dem backbenchers rebel, the attitude of the Labour Party would be crucial to attempts to defeat Trident in the Commons. Labour officially supports Trident renewal, although it is opposed by significant numbers of Labour MPs, some of whom are likely to raise the issue in the party’s leadership contest.
The government has indicated that Trident will not be included in the Strategic Defence Review, which would have involved asking basic questions about its usefulness. QPSW criticised the decision, while CND said it was absurd not to review something as expensive as Trident when public services are facing cuts. Estimates of the cost of Trident have varied between £20bn and £100bn.
Opponents of Trident have been disappointed by the appointment of Conservative MP Liam Fox as defence secretary. In the past he has described opposition to nuclear weapons as ‘national self-loathing’.
But he will have to work alongside his new junior ministers, who include the Lib Dems’ Nick Harvey. Only last year, Nick Harvey called Trident a ‘cold war relic’ that is not ‘relevant to the security threats of today and tomorrow’.
The coalition received overwhelming endorsement at a special conference of Liberal Democrat members last weekend. Those voting in favour included Lucy Care, a Quaker at Derby Meeting, who narrowly missed out on becoming MP for Derby North in this month’s election.
Lucy told the Friend that ‘The two areas of the agreement that I am least happy about are related to Trident and nuclear power’. But she insisted that, with the Labour Party failing to offer an alternative, her party had taken the best pragmatic decision in the interests of progressive politics.
Other anti-nuclear campaigners are more critical. Penny Stone, who attends Quaker Meetings in Edinburgh, was recently arrested while protesting at the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment. She described the Lib Dems’ concession as ‘very disappointing’.
Penny said: ‘As it becomes increasingly clear that the government wants to replace Trident and make the world less safe, it becomes increasingly important for us to disarm the facilities ourselves.’ She therefore insisted that ‘nonviolent direct action becomes even more relevant, in conjunction with dialogue with elected politicians.’
the Friend, 21 May 2010