Labour conference won't vote on Trident renewal


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will avoid a showdown over the renewal of the Trident nuclear missile system at his party conference because motions on the issue have not won approval.

Delegates voted on a number of issues they want to debate during the Brighton conference this week, but Trident was not one of them so will not be the subject of a vote.

Leaders of the country's biggest trade unions had already made clear they would oppose any moves to scrap the Trident nuclear weapons system amid calls by Mr Corbyn for an end to the UK's "weapons of mass destruction".

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, which has thousands of members in the defence industry, said his main focus is the protection of jobs.

Mr Corbyn said: "This is an open and democratic party and the members at conference have decided to discuss the issues that they want to debate this week.

"These are important issues like the NHS, the refugee crisis, mental health and housing."

A number of constituency parties had tabled motions on defence which called for Trident to be scrapped, but they did not have enough support from delegates to be debated at conference.

The future of Trident is just one area where Mr Corbyn has different views to his colleagues in the Commons, but sweeping changes to the way Labour policy is formed could see the grassroots members who overwhelmingly backed his leadership bid given a greater influence.

The difficulties faced by Mr Corbyn in uniting his shadow cabinet behind him have been highlighted by the debate on the nuclear deterrent.

Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn and shadow justice secretary Lord Falconer have both spoken out against abandoning the UK's nuclear capability, and Mr Corbyn said "we are going to come to an accommodation of some sort".

Hinting that the Labour vote might not be whipped when Parliament decides, he told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "We are going to have to discuss it and debate it and come to a philosophical solution to it. But I understand colleagues' views.

"I hope to persuade them that a nuclear free world is a good thing, that fulfilling our obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and promoting a nuclear weapons convention is a good thing. They are all signed up to multilateral disarmament, by the way.

"There are many people, military thinkers, who are very concerned, indeed opposed, to Trident because they don't see it as part of modern security or defence. They don't see any situation in which Trident would become an option you would think about using.

"This is a weapon of mass destruction."

Mr Corbyn suggested it would not be "a disaster" if there were two different opinions within the party, but added: "I will do my persuasive best to bring them around to my view."

Former leadership contender Chuka Umunna, who ruled out serving in the shadow cabinet because of differences with Mr Corbyn over issues including Trident, said the party would have to fix its position on such key policies.

"It's not plausible for us as an opposition not to have a position on the defence of the realm," he told a fringe meeting.

"I think at the moment, we are fresh out of a leadership election, we are not long from a general election where we went down to one of our worst defeats."

A spokesman for the GMB union said: "The Labour Party went before the electorate with a commitment to renew Trident, and that remains party policy. We are pleased there is no threat to the tens of thousands of workers in the defence sector."

The Government is set to make a decision on whether to renew Trident by the end of next year.

CND expressed "surprise and disappointment" at Labour's "failure" to include a debate on Trident replacement on its agenda.

Kate Hudson, CND general secretary, said: "Given the clear view of Labour's leader in favour of this crucial debate, together with very strong grassroots anti-Trident sentiment, conference's failure to debate Trident policy is a both a surprise and a huge disappointment.

"This is not an issue that Labour can continue to fail to address. In a few month's time the Government will put the question of Trident replacement to Parliament. After today's failure to debate - and potentially change - Trident policy, Labour has effectively presented a blank cheque to the Government. The cost to British taxpayers will be well in excess of £100 billion.

"The issue of Trident will not go away. Sooner or later Labour must have this debate and bring its policy into the 21st century. At the moment Labour has its head in the sand of an outdated, overpriced Cold War nuclear weapons policy." 

SNP depute leader Stewart Hosie said: "Jeremy Corbyn's entire credibility is on the line as Labour become mired in confusion on Trident. So many of the people who backed him to be Labour leader did so on the basis of his anti-Trident stance - now barely two weeks into the job, it appears he's shying away from the debate.

"If Jeremy Corbyn cannot change Labour's position on Trident, he will either have to vote in favour of Trident renewal against his own long-held views, or we will be faced with the farcical situation of the Labour leader defying his own party whip.

"Labour no longer appears to have a coherent position on anything, and while they remain such a deeply divided party, SNP MPs will get on with the job of providing real opposition to the Tories at Westminster." 

The subjects chosen for debate were austerity and public services, Europe, mental health, the refugee crisis, the BBC licence fee, employment rights, housing and the NHS.