On Thursday 16 June Alan Chick and Malcolm Meredith participated in a series of half-hour vigils at the Russian, French and German Embassies and at 10 Downing Street calling on the four countries to renounce the threat of nuclear weapon use and to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
These vigils were organised by Trident Ploughshares in the run up to the first review meeting of the 60 countries who have so-far ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) taking place from 21-23 June 2022 in Vienna.
Alan and Malcolm both spoke at the vigils, here is a transcript of what Alan said…
Good morning to everyone and thank you for coming. My name is Alan Chick and I am a Veteran for Peace. I served for 7 years in the Royal Navy, from 1965 to 1972. I served on 4 ships HMS Forth, Torquay, Puma and Fox.
Firstly I would like to thank David Polden, Trident Ploughshares and CND for inviting us to be here and for inviting us to speak.
I am not particularly knowledgeable about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. However it appears to be a treaty that has been signed by countries that do not have nuclear weapons and not signed by those countries that do have nuclear weapons.
How has this come about? The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has been approved by the UN General Assembly, it was adopted on 7 July 2017, opened for signature on 20 September 2017, and entered into force on 22 January 2021.
For those nations that are party to it, the treaty prohibits the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as assistance and encouragement to the prohibited activities. For nuclear armed states joining the treaty, it provides for a time-bound framework for negotiations leading to the verified and irreversible elimination of its nuclear weapons programme.
As of 19 May 2022, the TPNW has 61 states parties while a further 28 states have signed but not yet ratified. Thus, in total, 89 states (or 45% of all states) are either states parties or signatories to the Treaty. This means that we are approaching a situation where half of all states will have accepted binding obligations in international law under the TPNW.
However the United Nations is not just the General Assembly, it also consists of the Security Council. The United Nations Security Council is not representative of the world in which we live, it is something which grew out of the Second World War. It has 5 permanent members and 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly. The 5 permanent members are, China, France, Russia, The United Kingdom and the United States. All of the 5 permanent members are nuclear powers and all 5 are opposed to the Treaty.
If they took the vote at the General Assembly then this treaty would be approved. However it is the UN Security Council that is blocking it.
So the reason for the United Kingdom wanting to have nuclear weapons is that it is a status symbol which gives the UK a seat at the top table, the UN Security Council. We are spending £100 million a year on a status symbol in order to continue the pretence that we are a global super power.
We are a country in which in the past an elite got very rich by using slavery, repression and invasion to exploit other nations, using our armed forces as a tool for that repression. However we need to adjust our thinking and accept that we need to adapt our role according to changing circumstances.
In 1066 we were invaded by the Normans and all the land was stolen. The descendants of those people who stole the land are still the major land owners, the establishment and the ruling class to this day.
We have an unelected head of state, an unelected House of Lords and a House of Commons where the ruling party always has more people that voted against it than voted for it. As long as we carry on doing things as we are, we cannot expect to get a different result.
We need a system of government that truly reflects the will of the people.