Nuclear weapons policy info

GetInvolved-policyWe work behind-the-scenes to provide information and advice on the UK’s national defence and security strategies to key decision makers in government based on what the public has told us.

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What the politicians are saying

We commissioned three briefings with the British American Security Information Council to look at the Trident debate through the eyes of each of the main political parties in Britain ahead of the next general election in 2015. Each of these briefings are designed to stimulate discussion within government and outline the debate as each party develops their defence manifestos. Here’s what they said, and how politicians are responding.

These briefings focus mainly on the issues of cost, security and public opinion. They reflect the views of the author, not BASIC or WMD Awareness. 

Liberal Democrats

Briefing: A rational approach to Britain’s future nuclear arsenal

We distributed this briefing at the Liberal Democrats’ party conference in September 2013. It sets out the current context of nuclear policy in the UK and the importance of decisions being made in the next two years. Looking at the debate through the eyes of the Liberal Democrats, it concludes that an evidenced-based debate on Trident is vital.

What the Lib Dems say: The Lib Dems led on the Government’s Trident Alternative’s Review, published in 2013, which looked at alternative options to Britain’s current nuclear weapons programme. In their defence manifesto, released ahead of the 2015 election, Defending the Future the party uses the evidence from the Alternative’s Review to argue against the need for continuous at sea-deterrence (CAS-D), Britain’s current level of nuclear deterrence. This could mean reducing the number of nuclear submarines in Trident’s fleet from four to two.

Labour Party

LabourBriefing: A progressive nuclear weapons policy for the next Labour government

We distributed this briefing to MPs and Councillors at Labour’s Spring Party Conference in London in 2014.

What the Labour Party says: In the 1980s the party publicly argued against the need for Britain to possess nuclear weapons, yet in recent years they have backed Trident. In their 2015 general election manifesto they say: “Labour remains committed to a minimum, credible, independent nuclear capability, delivered through a Continuous At-Sea Deterrent. We will actively work to increase momentum on global multilateral disarmament efforts and negotiations, and look at further reductions in global stockpiles and the numbers of weapons.”

Conservative Party

Briefing: A Conservative approach to the forthcoming debate on Trident

This briefing looks at the Trident debate from a Conservative perspective and is designed to stimulate discussion within the Conservative Party.

What the Conservative Party says: In their 2015 general election manifesto the Conservatives remain committed to retaining “the Trident continuous at sea nuclear deterrent”. This means they want to keep four submarines, each with nuclear warheads on board and maintaining Continuous At Sea Deterrence (CAS-D), where one submarine patrols the sea at any one time.

Green Party

What the Green Party says: The Greens are totally opposed to weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons and biological weapons. Their party policy is that they must be dismantled and banned by international agreement. In their 2015 general election manifesto the Party stipulates that it would like to “decommission the Trident nuclear deterrent system and promote peacemaking.” In this clip shot by some of our young Ambassadors, Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party explains the party’s long history of opposing nuclear weapons.

Policy briefings:

The link between non-proliferation and disarmament in the NPT: is there consensus behind the conflict

Developed with the British Pugwash Trust this briefing identifies grounds for a new consensus within the Non-Proliferation Treaty on the link between non-proliferation (new countries obtaining nuclear weapons) and disarmament among those countries that already possess them, and the role of the UK.

Key decision makers

In Britain

Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State: TBC – awaiting election results: Responsibilities include policy strategy and cyber-security. Relevant strategies? ‘Countering Weapons Proliferation’ and ‘Leading international efforts to resolve concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme’.

Secretary of State for Defence: TBC – awaiting election results: Responsibilities include the government’s nuclear programme, defence resources and operational strategy and he sits on the National Security Council. Relevant strategies? ‘Working towards nuclear disarmament’.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury:TBC – awaiting election results: Responsible for public expenditure. Led the Government’s Trident Alternative’s Review, published in 2013, which looked at alternative options to Britain’s current nuclear weapons programme.

Who advises them?

Government Secretary’s are advised by Select Committees, which involve MPs from each of the main political parties. They examine the expenditure, administration and policy of their departments.

Foreign Affairs Select Committee: Chaired by TBC

See also Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Defence Select Committee: Chaired by TBC

See also Ministry of Defence

Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy: Chaired by TBC

See also National Security and Intelligence


United Nations: founded in 1945 to promote a range of international values including international law and security, economic development, human rights and the achievement of world peace. It has an office that works specifically on disarmament affairs. The UK is one of 193 members.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO): set up in 1949 and aims to safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. The UK is one of 28 members of NATO.

Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT): an international treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology. The UK is recognised as one of five nuclear weapons states under the treaty, and as a signatory to the treaty promises to work towards disarmament.

Chemical Weapons Convention: an arms control treaty outlawing the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons and their precursors. The UK has signed and ratified the treaty, which is administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Biological Weapons Convention: the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the production of an entire category of weapons. Britain submitted the first draft of the treaty that opened for signature in 1972.

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