30/09/2015 05:12 BST | Updated 30/09/2015 10:59 BST

Jeremy Corbyn Says He Would Never Use Nuclear Weapons, Triggers Fresh Shadow Cabinet Row

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers his first speech as leader of the party on September 29, 2015 in Brighton, England. The four day annual Labour Party Conference takes place in Brighton and is expected to attract thousands of delegates with keynote speeches from influential politicians and over 500 fringe events. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

A fresh shadow cabinet row has broken out after Jeremy Corbyn said he would never use Britain's nuclear weapons and cited the USA's inability to prevent 9/11 despite having nukes as evidence the missiles were not needed.

On Wednesday morning, Mr Corbyn told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme he would never "push the button" if he was prime minister. The comment led to immediate criticism from his party's defence spokesperson Maria Eagle, who in turn was rebuked by shadow development secretary Diane Abbott.

While Mr Corbyn is opposed to renewing Trident, many of his MPs and shadow cabinet are in favour. The Labour leader said today he is "opposed to using nuclear weapons" and wouldn't use the Trident system even if it was at his disposal.

Ms Eagle said of the remark: "I don’t think that, a potential prime minister answering a question like that, in the way in which he did, is helpful."

And she said Corbyn's comments "undermines to some degree" the party's policy making process which has yet to make a decision on Trident.

Ms Abbott hit back that she was "surprised" at the criticism from her shadow cabinet colleague.

Ms Eagle told the conference earlier this week that Corbyn was fully aware she supported Trident when he asked her to take on the defence brief. "Jeremy knew that I disagreed with him about this when he appointed me. And he still asked me to do the job," she said.

Conservative defence Michael Fallon seized on Corbyn's remark. "The Labour leader is effectively saying he would lower Britain’s defences," he said.

Defending his position, Mr Corbyn told BBC 5 Live denied he had effectively nullified Labour's policy making process by ruling out ever launching Trident.

"Would anybody press the nuclear button?" He asked. "Nuclear weapons are WMDs that take out millions of civilians they didn't do the USA much good on 9/11. The problems in the world are not huge wars in that way, the problems are much more fairly random acts of terrorism."

Pressed on whether he would have to resign as leader should the party choose to support Trident in direct opposition to his position he replied there would be "no need" and he was "not offering anything like that".

Paul Kenny, the general secretary of the GMB union, had suggested Corbyn would have to quit if Labour backed a weapons system he has said he would never use. "Then he’s got a choice to make in terms of whether he followed the defence policy of the country, or felt that he should resign. His integrity would drive his decision one way or another," he said.

Shadow business secretary and shadow first secretary of state Angela Eagle joined with her sister in criticising Corbyn. "If you've got nuclear weapons systems and something awful happens you've got to consider being able to use it," she told Sky News.

She added of Corbyn: "He'll have to justify his own decisions and his own comments."

SEE ALSO: Labour Party Conference HuffPost Poll: Less Than One In Five Voters Back Scrapping Trident

Mr Corbyn's keynote speech to the Labour party conference in Brighton yesterday made clear he would use his "huge" mandate after the leadership election victory to make not renewing Trident party policy.

Asked on Today whether he would ever use the bomb, he said: "No." He went on: "187 countries don't feel the need to have a nuclear weapon to protect their security. Why should those five need it themselves? We are not in the era of the Cold War anymore. It happened a long time ago."

On Trident, Mr Corbyn added: "I'm opposed to using nuclear weapons, I'm opposed to hosting nuclear weapons. I want to see a nuclear free world."

He went on: "I do not think we should be renewing Trident. I think we should fulfil our obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. I think we should be promoting a nuclear non-proliferation convention. I do not believe we should be spending £100 billion on renewing Trident. There are many in the military who don't want Trident renewed, because they see it as a obsolete thing they don't need."

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