Nuclear family? Trident renewal debate scheduled for Labour Party conference

Jeremy Corbyn © Peter Nicholls
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to argue against renewing Britain’s multibillion pound Trident nuclear deterrent at the party’s annual conference next week.

The matter was added to the conference agenda, after local constituency parties put forward motions opposing Trident. The contentious issue is set to highlight party divisions at the session, which will run from September 27 to 30 in Brighton.

Though Corbyn is personally opposed to Trident’s renewal, it is thought the majority of the shadow cabinet and Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) support it.

On Sunday, newly appointed shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn told the BBC he believes Britain needs to keep Trident. Benn said he is confident his party will vote to keep the nuclear deterrent as well as remain in NATO, despite Corbyn’s criticism of the alliance.

“My view is that we need to maintain an independent nuclear deterrent,” Benn said. “I share with Jeremy the wish to see a world which is free of nuclear weapons, but I don’t believe for one second that if Britain were to give up its deterrent any other of the nuclear states would give theirs up.”

READ MORE: Calls to scrap Trident nukes threaten party unity at Labour & Lib Dem conferences

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), of which Corbyn is vice chairman, has welcomed the move to debate the issue.

“It is time to comply with our obligation under international law to accomplish the total elimination of our nuclear arsenal. By doing so we would send a message to the world that spending for peace and development and meeting people's real needs is our priority, not spending on weapons of mass destruction,” said a CND spokesperson.

The GMB trade union has also spoken out against scrapping the project, arguing the nuclear base hosting Trident at Faslane in Scotland employs more than 40,000 people.

“The 40,000 defense workers in Scotland are as vital to our national security as the armed forces. Without the skills of the workforce in the yards on the Clyde and Rosyth the Royal Navy could not defend the nation,” said Gary Smith GMB Scotland Acting Secretary.

Corbyn and anti-nuclear campaigners have called on the government to instate a program to retrain and redeploy nuclear engineers in the green and renewables industry.

The government will make a decision on the £100bn renewal of the Trident system next year.