Labour Debate 'Boycott' Criticised

20 January 2015, 11:18 | Updated: 20 January 2015, 11:20

Nationalist MPs have blasted Labour for reportedly planning to boycott today's debate on replacing the Trident nuclear deterrent.

The SNP and Plaid Cymru have called the debate on an opposition day motion to highlight their commitment to scrapping the programme and instead using what they claim would be £100 billion saved to ease austerity measures.

But amid reports Labour will make only a nominal showing in the debate, MPs from both parties accused the Opposition of ducking the issue.

A shadow defence minister will make a speech outlining Labour's position, which is to replace Trident with a similar submarine-based missile system, which is continuously at sea.

The Conservatives are committed to a like-for-like replacement before the current version expires in the next decade while the Liberal Democrats have advocated reducing the number of submarines required in a replacement scheme.

SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson said: "This episode is a grim insight into Labour's priorities under Jim Murphy and Ed Miliband.

"They'll troop through the lobbies with the Tories to vote for £30 billion more austerity cuts but refuse to take part in a debate on not spending £100 billion on a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons - which underlines that Labour cannot defend their indefensible position.

"That Scottish Labour MPs support wasting another £100 billion on weapons of mass destruction while foodbank use is rocketing, and more and more children are being pushed into poverty, is simply indefensible - and with their refusal to debate it's clear that they know it too.''

Plaid Cymru's Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) said: "Talk of Labour MPs pulling a no-show and snubbing the Plaid Cymru-SNP debate on Trident is frankly offensive to the electorate.

"Trident renewal will be the most important spending decision made by the next Parliament at an estimated cost of £100 billion of public money.

"The people of Wales deserve to know where those seeking election in May stand on this defining issue.''

On Sunday, a Scottish Labour Party spokesman said: "Scottish Labour believes in a world totally free of nuclear weapons.

"Our record is beyond reproach - the last Labour government made the greatest contribution to nuclear disarmament in UK history.

"Labour governments have always led international efforts for multilateral nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

"We will do this again after the general election and will use the NPT Treaty Meeting this year to advance 'Global Zero', seeking to set an action plan for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.''

Both parties criticised Labour for voting with the Government last week on a revised Charter for Budget Responsibility, which commits to eliminating the deficit in three years.

Ahead of the debate, Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), urged the Commons to back the motion - despite it not having any binding effect on the Government were it to carry.

She said: "Trident is an anachronism. It is the wrong answer to the security challenges facing the UK, and when that wrong answer comes with a £100 billion price-tag, it's no wonder it's deeply unpopular with the British public.

"David Cameron claims it's the ultimate insurance policy, but even the former head of the Armed Forces has conceded that it is 'completely useless' to the threats we face.

"Many politicians across the political spectrum agree that Trident is no more than a status symbol - and one this country can ill-afford.''