Earlier this evening I spoke out in opposition to the Government's plans to renew our Trident nuclear weapons, and voted against the Government's motion.
I joined the CND as a teenager over 20 years ago because I grew up under an ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation.
Thankfully the threat of nuclear attack seems far more remote than when I was growing up, but many of us now seem to have lost sight of the senselessness of the stockpiling of these weapons and the utter barbarity of the concept of mutually assured destruction.
In a debate like this it is easy to lose sight of what we are actually talking about. What we are talking about is a weapons system that is explicitly designed and primed to be used as a means to totally destroy entire nations and to kill millions of people.
I simply do not accept that there can ever be circumstances in which it would be permissible to deliberately target millions of innocent civilians in this way.
Furthermore, in Parliament we do not take decision in a vacuum. Decisions such as the one we face today must be taken in the context of the Government’s spending plans.
And it is for this reason that I cannot in all conscience vote in favour of writing a blank cheque for billions of pounds today when so many of my constituents are living in deprivation and when public services are stretched beyond breaking point.
I cannot vote in favour of spending so much money on renewing our nuclear weaponry when the human cost of austerity is so grave. To do so would be a dereliction of my duty to represent the people that I was elected to serve.
You can read my speech below or on Hansard here, or watch my speech on Parliament.tv here (from 19:33 onwards).
Madame Deputy Speaker, one of the great traditions of this House is that on matters of conscience such as the issue before us today, Members draw on a wide range of different experiences and viewpoints in coming to their own conclusions.
The argument has been made that not replacing our nuclear weapons would diminish our national standing and be an abdication of our role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
We have heard that Trident is a necessary deterrent – the ultimate insurance policy for our nation.
People have been writing to me about the jobs that are reliant on Trident.
I stand here first and foremost as a Christian and it is from that perspective that I speak.
I stand here united with Pope Benedict the Sixteenth when he said that “in a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims”.
I stand here alongside leaders from all of the world’s faiths. In the words of the UK multi-faith statement on nuclear weapons: “Any use of nuclear weapons would have devastating humanitarian consequences and violate the principle of dignity for every human being that is common to each of our faith traditions”.
Madame Deputy Speaker the idea of loving thy neighbour and protecting our world for future generations simply cannot hold if we have stockpiles of weapons that will destroy our neighbours and destroy our world for future generations.
Not only do nuclear weapons contradict religious principles, any form of international relations based on the threat of mutual destruction is totally contradictory to the Preamble and Article 1 of the United Nations Charter, which talks of a system of peaceful resolution of disputes.
And it is against that backdrop that I recall that I joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the anti-apartheid movement before I became a member of the Labour Party.
I remember growing in the 1980’s hugely disturbed by the idea of nuclear annihilation. I know that the Cold War has dissipated somewhat but each of the 40 warheads carried by a Trident submarine is exponentially more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of people and casting a long and dark shadow over our history.
It is also right that I recall my constituents, a constituency that has seen two riots in a generation and also remind the House of the huge cost of this programme.
Reminding the House that in my constituency residential care homes have closed. Drop-in centres have closed. Youth have centres closed. Unemployment double the national average. Life expectancy five years below the national average. Haringey is home to 12 of the most deprived wards in the country and 47% of children are living in poverty.
Against that backdrop I cannot in all conscience vote for something that is a blank cheque for nuclear weapons.
I am not currently in the same place was I was as an 18, 19 or 20 year old. I do think that you can come to a multilateral view and still have concerns about the scale and the cost, and in looking at our neighbours in NATO not ask some pretty hard questions as to why we don’t share a nuclear capacity and why we need to have one independent and of our own at this huge cost.
I might say also why it is that given our commitment to nuclear proliferation we hear so little about it even compared to the 1980’s when Thatcher and Reagan used to be talking about it regularly and why it’s the case that we vote against others on the issue on the issue of nuclear proliferation at the UN.
So when people like Field Marshal Lord Bramall and Generals Lord Ramsbotham and Sir Hugh Beach say that “nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of the violence we currently face, or are likely to face – particularly international terrorism” we must listen.
These men are no pacifists or unilateralists, they are simply responding to a changing international context and it is with that in mind that I will be voting against the Government tonight.