News archive 2007
Defence Minister speaks at King's25 Jan 2007, PR 09/07
Des Browne, Secretary of State for Defence, today gave a keynote speech at King's on ‘The UK's Nuclear Deterrent in the Twenty-First Century' in the Great Hall, Strand Campus.
To an audience of staff, students, guests of King's and journalists, Mr Browne explained the Government's thinking on the timing of decisions to replace the Trident nuclear deterrent, driven as it is by the life-cycle of the missile-carrying submarines.
He concentrated, however, on the central arguments concerning the role of a nuclear deterrent in British conceptions of national security for the next 50 years, discussing the continuing role of deterrence in all thinking about the utility of military force, as well as in the case of nuclear forces.
In particular, he took the opportunity to announce that the Government had stopped using the term “sub-strategic Trident” in discussions on a possible limited use of nuclear weapons, and affirmed again ‘that the UK would only consider using nuclear weapons in the most extreme situations of self-defence'. This was an important clarification to a policy debate which began in 1998 when the Government had announced then that ‘Trident must also be capable of performing this “sub-strategic” role'.
The speech was followed by a question and answer session chaired by Sir Lawrence Freedman, Vice-Principal (Research) and Professor of War Studies.
In this session he enlarged upon the point. Both legally and morally, the Minister said, Trident ‘can only be a strategic weapon'. He indicated the crucial importance of the legal and moral arguments behind all these judgements. The deterrent, he said, can be argued on rational grounds of national interest, as the Government does. But another generation of nuclear weapons must also be compatible with our international obligations, and with our consciences. ‘In the end' , he said, ‘that must and will remain a matter of personal moral choice.'
The White Paper on the future of the nuclear deterrent, which was published in December, is available on the MoD website.
Des Browne took over from John Reid last May as Secretary of State for Defence, and has already made his mark in a number of high priority areas. For example, he made a clear and distinctive decision in agreeing to pardons for those ‘shot at dawn' during the First World War.
He has also spoken with honesty and clarity about the challenging circumstances in which British troops are engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq. Additionally he has made it a personal priority to keep under review the responsibility the Ministry of Defence accepts for the welfare of all its Armed Forces personnel and their families.
Michael Clarke, Professor of Defence Studies at King's and Senior Advisor to the Defence Select Committee, comments: ‘These times pose unique challenges for any Secretary of State for Defence, and Mr Browne has made it clear that he is well equipped and absolutely willing to take them on with energy and integrity.'
Notes to editors
King's College London
King's College London is the fourth oldest university in England with more than 13,700 undergraduates and nearly 6,200 graduate students in nine schools of study based at five London campuses. It is a member of the Russell Group: a coalition of the UK's major research-based universities. The College has had 24 of its subject-areas awarded the highest rating of 5* and 5 for research quality, demonstrating excellence at an international level, and it has recently received an excellent result in its audit by the Quality Assurance Agency.
King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, international relations, medicine, nursing and the sciences, and has played major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA. It is the largest centre for the education of health care professionals in Europe and is home to five Medical Research Council Centres – more than any other university.
King's is in the top group of UK universities for research earnings, with income from grants and contracts of more than £114 million, and has anannual income of more than £369 million.
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