Press Release on Trident White Paper

Press Release 8 March 2007

Peacerights and the Nuclear Information Service are calling for governmental accountability on questions of illegality and due process regarding the replacement of Trident proposed in the Government’s White Paper, ‘The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent’, published on 4 December 2006.

Peacerights has obtained and is releasing Counsel’s Opinion by Michael Fordham QC and Naina Patel, which addresses the reasons why it can be said that:

(1) The Government is incorrect in law in considering that “the UK’s retention of a nuclear deterrent is fully consistent with our international legal obligations” (paragraph 2-9 of the White Paper), by reference to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law, and viewed through the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on The Legality of the Threat and Use of Nuclear Weapons.

(2) The Government’s failure to consult upon the proposed replacement of Trident is itself unlawful in the circumstances.
The Nuclear Information Service (NIS) is calling upon the Secretaries of State for Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs respectively to confirm on behalf of the Government that:

(1) Its previously stated conclusion as to its obligations under international law in this context was incorrect in law, and that it cannot be satisfied that the replacement of Trident would be compatible with international law; and

(2) Its failure to carry out a public consultation on the proposed replacement of Trident is legally unjustifiable.

Absent such confirmation, NIS is proposing to seek a judicial review to invite the courts to ensure the Government’s compliance with the relevant legal standards.
Di McDonald of Nuclear Information Service said today:

“The Legal Opinion explains that since the government wrote about the relationship of the proposed renewal of Trident and the Non-Proliferation Treaty in the White Paper, that relationship is a proper subject to be addressed by the UK court.

There has been no proper Consultation on whether or not the UK needs nuclear weapons forever. The government has no method of weighing the views of consultees, and is not reporting to parliament on the results of a consultation. It is merely restating over and over again that is wants a new-generation nuclear weapons system. This view is at odds with the majority, and at odds with building a safer world."

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, Solicitors for NIS said today:

"The Government has completely misunderstood international law on two vitally important issues. The first is that replacing Trident would be a clear breach of its obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including that it must move to disarm. The second is that it can never threaten to use such a weapons system as it cannot discriminate between military objectives and civilians. It had not one, but two, opinions from two different QCs and it ignored the issues and told itself that replacing Trident would be perfectly lawful. It is not. It must now consult or face the consequences."