Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Peace Minister is devising a plan to be considered by the Shadow Cabinet that he hopes will pave the way for Labour to support scrapping the Trident nuclear deterrent.
Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton, an ally of the Labour leader, is working on a defence diversification strategy to show how high-skilled military engineering workers can be retrained to work in industries like health technology, transport and education.
Despite Mr Corbyn’s longstanding opposition to nuclear weapons, it remains Labour policy to renew Trident at a cost of £40bn over many years, mainly because unions want to protect the jobs of thousands of workers employed in the nuclear sector.
But Mr Hamilton said he hopes his proposals will convince the unions and party to change policy and support scrapping Trident.
The defence diversification plan will form part of a “peace doctrine” currently being worked up by Mr Hamilton.
Mr Corbyn has seen a 25-page initial framework for the doctrine, which includes the proposals, and has agreed to put it to Shadow Cabinet Ministers including Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry for consultation.
Asked if the defence diversification plan could pave the way for unions to change their position and support the scrapping of Trident, Mr Hamilton told The Yorkshire Post: “I sincerely hope so.
“I have always said party policy says we should renew Trident but I say we should scrap it.
“That is also the view of the leader of the party.”
The Trident upgrade programme will replace the four current Vanguard submarines which carry the UK’s nuclear missiles with a new class of four submarines, known as Successor. It has been approved by Parliament and is not expected to be complete until the early 2030s.
Mr Hamilton said the skills and technologies used in the nuclear weapons and wider arms industry can be put to use in the civilian sector, pointing out that components used in ballistic missiles are also used in heart monitoring machines.
Under the proposals a Labour government would initially fund retraining schemes to help workers transition into different industries.
But Mr Hamilton argued that within a few years the shift to civilian industries would be far more lucrative for the British economy.
The money saved by scrapping Trident would then be spent on making Labour the party of servicemen and women, Mr Hamilton said, for example by improving substandard accommodation and offering better post-combat support for veterans.
The MP also stressed that his proposals would not mean an end to the arms industry in Britain, which would still be tasked with aiding defence of the country.
Defence Minister Stuart Andrew said the “out of touch” plans for defence diversification would be “foolish and dangerous” if it leads to the scrapping of the Trident nuclear deterrent.
The Conservative MP for Pudsey said: “At a time when the world is facing threats from various sources, the Labour Party are showing the real danger they pose to our security by scrapping our deterrent that has kept us safe for decades.
“This is foolish and dangerous.
“Plus the assumption that all those skilled workers would be happy to walk away from the brilliant work they are doing in building out new submarines demonstrates how out of touch they really are.”
The wider peace doctrine will look to build upon former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook’s “ethical foreign policy”.
Under the doctrine the number one priority of the armed forces would still be the defence of the realm.
But the military would also be tasked with a “responsibility to protect” people around the world from suffering.