Thursday, 2 July 2009

Anti-Trident protest within Parliament, campaigners risk arrest in silent protest

Thirteen campaigners from the groups Trident Ploughshares and Women in Black (London) have joined together in a dignified and silent protest within the Central Lobby of the Palace of Westminster, protesting at the illegal and undemocratic decision to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system, being made by the Government behind closed doors. Entering the lobby of the House of Commons at 2p.m today. they stood silently in a circle displaying t-shirts with the message 'Disarm Nuclear Weapons Now', whilst waiting to lobby their MPs. They are refusing to move and are risking arrest.

Their action highlights the need for the Government to engage in the debate already raging amongst commentators, military and security experts and members of the public over the plan to commit £76bn to replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system. A decision on the next stage of the Trident replacement process is due to take place in September, during the Parliamentary recess.

Angie Zelter, one of the Trident Ploughshares protesters said, 'The Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Geneva Conventions, are being breached by the UK. If our Government is sincere about trying to stop terrorism then it should get rid of its own weapons of mass terrorism and stop its preparations for mass murder, and neither update nor replace Trident. Only a sincere and honest commitment to international law will bring the peace and justice the world needs to co-operate fully in solving the many crises, like climate chaos, that are confronting us'.

Liz Khan, from Women in Black London, said, 'The Government is taking fundamental decisions on the replacement of Trident in secret, behind closed doors. This is undemocratic. Given the current economic situation, blowing over £100bn on a useless weapon of mass destruction should surely be a matter for public scrutiny and debate. Our action today is part of the process of bringing this issue out into the open'.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: "Next week Presidents Obama and Medvedev look set to agree huge cuts in their nuclear arsenals - perhaps by as much as 50%. The clear international trend is towards disarmament - unilateral, bilateral and multilateral. The UK must not stand apart from that by committing huge amounts of taxpayers money to renewing a system designed for the Cold War which has no relevance to the threats of the 21st century. Gordon Brown has said he wants to listen more - he should start by heeding the call from 85 of his own backbenchers not to commit over £2bn to Trident Replacement during the parliamentary recess, when there is no chance for democratic scrutiny."

The MoD's current schedule will see ministers take a decision on the scope and capabilities of the replacement system (the 'Initial Gate') during the Parliamentary recess this September, when there is no possibility for scrutiny in the Commons. The decision is expected to commit upwards of £2.1bn to the programme. Over 160 MPs have now signed EDM 660 calling for a Parliamentary debate before this decision is taken to proceed to the next stage in the replacement process. The Foreign Affairs Committee also recommended a further Parliamentary debate in its recent report on global security and non-proliferation. To date, the government have refused to allow any debate to take place, even though the decision will come at a sensitive time, just before Labour Party conference.

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