Dear Mr Franklin
Thank you for taking the time to write to me regarding nuclear-strike policies, the transportation of nuclear warheads, arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and the Defence, Security and Equipment International arms fair.
Firstly, I do think that you raise a valid point by asking me when I would personally take the decision to launch a nuclear weapon. Given that I do support Britain’s continued possession of a nuclear deterrent I think that this is something I should answer. As stated in my previous letter, the most likely situation I can envisage where the deterrent would be used is where the United Kingdom was first attacked by another nuclear power.
Remember that during the Cold War nuclear weapons were justified by the NATO and the West due to the overwhelming force of the Soviet’s conventional ground forces. This was the reason why NATO adopted a first-strike policy. If it were conceivable that in the future, a similar threat was to exist and Britain was unable to defend itself using conventional forces alone, then I believe that this would justify a first-strike if such a policy was made explicitly clear. Given that the trigger for this would be a foreign invasion, then surely moral responsibility would lie with the offending nation. Furthermore, if the threat was overwhelming ground forces then I think a nuclear strike could be justified against a non-nuclear power. But this is straying into the realm of hypotheticals and l accept that such a threat does not exist today. Trident is a long-term strategic weapons system and we should be clear that it is currently possessed as a deterrent.
It is important to remember that such circumstances would represent an existential threat to our nation and way of life. I certainly would not justify using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations where this was not the case. Therefore, without you giving me particular examples of situations it is difficult for me to give a fully comprehensive answer regarding all of the, circumstances in which l would personally ’push the button’. However, I believe that there is a criteria where such action is justifiable and i hope I have gone some way in answering this question directly for you.
Secondly, by convention I do not sign Early Day Motions. However, your concern was a justifiable one and l have written to Mr Philip Dunne, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence to ask what safety procedures are in place when transporting nuclear warheads. i also enclosed a copy of the email you sent to me.
Once I receive a reply from Mr Dunne i shall be writing back to you to inform you of his response.
Thirdly, I share your concern about the humanitarian situation in Yemen and l am assured that the Government is continuing its efforts to address the urgent humanitarian needs. The UK is one of the largest donors to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and more than doubled its support over the last year to £85 million for 2015/16. UK aid has so far helped more than 1.3 million Yemenis.
The UK has been consistently clear with all sides to the conflict about the importance of compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The Government is clear that a political solution remains the best way to bring long-term stability to Yemen.
The UK operates one of the most rigorous and transparent export control regimes. All UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia are scrutinised in detail through established processes and against the EU and national consolidated criteria. This process takes account of all relevant information at the time of the application. A licence will not be issued, for any country, if to do so would be inconsistent with any provision of the UK Licensing Criteria. This includes if there is a clear risk that it might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law.
The conflict in Yemen is being monitored closely, and that is taken into account as part of the careful risk assessment for exports to Saudi Arabia. The Government is satisfied that export licences for Saudi Arabia are compliant with the UK’s export licencing criteria.
Finally, as a result of your email to me, i shall we writing to Mr Julian Brazier, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence on your behalf and attach a copy of your email to me. Mr Brazier is responsible for arms control.
Again, one I receive a reply from Mr Brazier i shall be writing back to you to inform you of his response.
If you have any further concerns or queries which you would like to raise with me, please do not hesitate to get in touch.