Letters - 2 April 2021

From Mass destruction weapons to Language and division

Mass destruction weapons

The International Peace Bureau has just awarded this year’s Sean MacBride Peace Prize to the Japanese Hidankyo Signature Campaign in support of the hibakusha’s (survivors of the A- and H-bomb explosions) appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons.   

The signature campaign, and the continuing work of the hibakusha, played a significant part in achieving the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (or Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty), which came into force in January this year. The UK government refused to join in the negotiations or sign up to the treaty.

Nonetheless, nuclear weapons, under international law, are now illegal.

The UK government, in the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, declared it would lift the cap on the warheads on missiles on the Trident submarines from 180 to 260 – effectively re-arming not disarming. 

This announcement on increasing nuclear warheads by over forty per cent flies in the face of the treaty that the UK has signed, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in which the nuclear weapon states would ‘disarm in good faith’. In a recent poll, seventy-seven per cent of the general public supported a ‘total ban on all nuclear weapons globally’.

The Trident nuclear-armed fleet, part of the US Trident project, will not keep anyone secure. It threatens genocide; it provokes nuclear proliferation; its replacement, to which currently the government and the Labour Party leadership are committed, will cost over £205 billion, which would be better re-directed to health, welfare and combatting climate change. Increasing the number of warheads will make all these dangers worse.

We need to oppose not only this policy of more nuclear warheads but the whole Trident project, comply with the Ban Treaty and scrap all the nuclear weapons based in the UK. Let us honour the hibakusha’s call.

Rae Street

Foreign aid budget

In November 2020 our foreign aid budget was cut from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of national income. This is a big deal, and not just morally wrong, but stupid, so much so that senior Tories have obtained legal advice indicating that without the consent of parliament the cut is illegal.

Such consent may be sought before the Easter recess, and it would be very helpful if Friends everywhere could write to their MPs indicating that yes, we did notice the cut, and yes, we do care.

Surely when the economies of already-fragile states are reeling under the effects of the pandemic we can afford more than a halfpenny in the pound to help them through, and £2.5 billion well spent on aid is a far better deal than the £16.5 billion increase in the defence budget also announced last November.

As the chair of the defence select committee remarked: ‘The recruiting sergeants of Hezbollah, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Isis and other armed militias will be the immediate beneficiaries of the cuts to the UK’s humanitarian programmes. China and Russia will not hesitate to fill the vacuum we create.’

Martin Drummond

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.