Friday, June 11, 2010
The price of power
Liberal Democrat policy is not to replace Trident with a like-for-like system, but the price of sharing power in the coalition is becoming clear.
The coalition agreement approved by the conference in Birmingham said:
"The parties commit to holding a full Strategic Security and Defence Review alongside the Spending Review with strong involvement of the Treasury. The Government will be committed to the maintenance of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, and have agreed that the renewal of Trident should be scrutinised to ensure value for money. Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives."
I (and others) took this to mean that Trident WOULD be included in the SDR. The fact that the drafting put Trident in a separate sentence should have been a warning.
Strangely the Coalition Programme for Government doesn't mention the SDR but repeats:
"We will maintain Britain’s nuclear deterrent,and have agreed that the renewal of Trident should be scrutinised to ensure value for money. Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives"
On Tuesday night this week (8th June) the Commons voted on Angus Robertson's amendment to the Address which called for Trident to be included in the SDR. As far as I can tell there was not one speech in the debate which mentioned the amendment ! In the vote, the Labour opposition (with very few exceptions) abstained despite the fact that in government they had no intention of including Trident in the review. Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs voted AGAINST and defeated the amendment.
Nothing in the coalition agreement says that Trident should or should not be included in the SDR. Yet Liberal Democrat MPs have voted against something they surely believe in. Presumably excluding Trident from the SDR was a cabinet decision followed by a three-line whip. It seems that MPs are not only committed to support items in the agreement but also to oppose items NOT in the agreement. We can, it seems, "continue to make the case for alternatives" but not in parliament ! Where then ?