CND welcomes the government’s decision to attend a landmark conference on nuclear weapons in Vienna next week. The decision is a victory for CND supporters who have sent thousands of emails to MPs urging the government to join 150 countries to discuss the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.
This is the third such conference in the last 18 months, reflecting growing international momentum towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. MPs from across the political spectrum called on the government to attend the Vienna conference, which even the nuclear-armed US administration declared it will be participating in.
The UK government was slammed for not attending the previous two conferences in Norway and Mexico. Former Conservative Defence Minister James Arbuthnot MP stated ‘We should be there. I cannot understand why we are not’, while former Liberal Democrat Defence Minister Sir Nick Harvey MP described the decision as a ‘disgrace’.
The UK’s decision reflects a U-turn following pressure to attend and comes at a time when global momentum towards a nuclear-free world has increased dramatically. New research on the impact of a nuclear exchange has shown that a resulting famine could kill billions, and the International Committee of the Red Cross has stated that it could not coordinate a humanitarian response to a nuclear blast.
CND’s General Secretary, Kate Hudson said:
‘This is an about-face by the UK government – given its failure to attend the previous two conferences – and it is absolutely to be welcomed. It is imperative, ahead of the parliamentary vote on replacing Trident in 2016, for our government to take on board the warnings this conference will present. The UK must make concerted efforts to dismantle its nuclear weapons before humanity suffers once again the devastating consequences of a nuclear explosion.
‘States around the world are fed up with the faltering process of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This state-led multilateral forum provides an opportunity to confront this reality and make real progress towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
‘The UK’s decision to attend the Vienna conference will not only be well-received by the international community, but it is in Britain’s interest to uphold its legal and humanitarian obligations and pursue global disarmament through diplomacy and international negotiations.
‘A decision on Trident replacement is due in the next parliament: a decision which could commit £100bn of taxpayers’ money to a strategically redundant weapons system. At the same time, vital public services are being eroded, including the NHS. For a majority of the British public, it’s a no-brainer: scrap Trident, save £100bn, and spend it on things we need.
‘With global momentum towards a nuclear-free world, it has never been more important to fundamentally rethink Britain’s nuclear weapons.’