POLITICS

SNP Calls House Of Commons Vote On Trident To Exploit Labour Row Over Nuclear Weapons

18/11/2015 13:58 GMT | Updated 18/11/2015 14:59 GMT
PA/PA Wire
File photo dated 30/01/02 of the Royal Navy's 16,000 ton Trident-class nuclear submarine Vanguard, as the US Government reiterated its support for the UK's nuclear arsenal amid Labour's growing support for its abolition.

Labour’s divide over nuclear weapons is to be exposed once again after the SNP said it would force a Commons vote on whether to scrap Trident.

Jeremy Corbyn, who wants to ditch the weapon-carrying submarines, is at odds with many of his Shadow Cabinet, who think the weapons system should be retained in a dangerous world.

The party courted controversy last night when it was revealed former London mayor and Corbyn ally Ken Livingstone, avowedly anti-nuclear, would co-chair a review into the party’s position on Trident.

The Labour leader’s spokesman said today the party would not “engage in political games” with the SNP, and that the party’s line was “subject to (Ken Livingstone and shadow defence secretary review)”.

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The review will determine whether the party returns to its policy of unilateral disarmament junked in the 1980s but still favoured by the Left.

The SNP, which has pledged to rid Scotland of nuclear weapons, today confirmed it would use its day of Commons debating allotted to Opposition parties to discuss the decision on renewing Trident, which is expected early next year. A vote will follow and though not binding on the Government has the potential for embarrassment.

The SNP is clearly looking to exploit Labour rifts ahead of Scottish Parliament elections in May where Nicola Sturgeon’s party is seeking an historic third term.

Mr Corbyn’s official spokesman said: “The policy is in review. We are not going to engage in political games. That’s not avoiding the issue. We will come to a conclusion about these issues. The party’s position is under review. The issue is subject to that review.”

The Conservative Party sees the Labour divide over nuclear weapons as evidence of its frailty on national security.

David Cameron again attempted to exploit the perceived flaw at Prime Minister’s Questions over Mr Corbyn’s position on “shoot-to-kill” if Paris-style terrorist attacks took place in London.

Labour has appointed Mr Livingstone to help 'convene' the review along with Shadow Defence Secretary Maria Eagle.

It followed a tense Labour Party conference where the party avoided a vote on the issue, but Mr Corbyn told the Today programme he would never push the nuclear button even if he had the chance - effectively disarming Britain if he was Prime Minster.

Seven shadow cabinet ministers - including Maria Eagle, the shadow defence secretary, Andy Burnham, the shadow home secretary, and Hilary Benn, the shadow foreign secretary - criticised the position.

To confuse matters, the Labour Party in Scotland has voted to ditch N-subs, while its leader north of the border, Kezia Dugdale, supports them - the mirror opposite of Mr Corbyn and the party nationally.

The SNP announced at its conference last month it would call a House of Commons vote on the issue.

SNP MP Angus Robertson, the party's leader in Westminster, told its conference in Aberdeen he would not be "holding my breath" that Labour MPs would join his party.