What do we do if we don’t make nukes? Lucas Aerospace Project 40 Years On

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The Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards in 1977

The Lucas Plan Story

But if we don’t make nukes won’t a lot of people be out of work?  A group of shop stewards in Birmingham puzzled over this problem 40 years ago.  This picture above records a fascinating episode not only in the history of the work towards nuclear disarmament in this country, but also something that happened right on our patch in Hall Green in 1976-7, at the Shaftsmoor Lane, Lucas Aerospace Factory, pictured below.

lucas-aerospace-factoryAs you may know, there is nothing left of this factory now: it was demolished a few years ago and the site now stands empty.  (A supermarket plan and care home plan failed.) but whilst all the things the shop stewards dreamed of never happened, and the tumbleweed may be blowing through that site on Shaftsmoor Lane ..

lucas-factory-being-demolishedhere is the history of what happened on that now empty site, which is to be commemorated in a celebration conference for the Lucas Plan to take place on Saturday 26th of November, 9-5 pm at the BVSC in Birmingham.

The Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards Combine’s Alternative Corporate Plan (‘The Lucas Plan’) was launched in 1976 and became famous worldwide, sparking an international movement for socially useful production and workers’ plans. Facing the threat of redundancies, the Combine collected 150 ideas from shop floor workers about alternative socially useful products that could be produced by the company, instead of relying on military orders. Many of the innovations in the plan, such as hybrid car engines, heat pumps and wind turbines were commercially viable and are now in widespread use. Although the Alternative Plan was rejected by Lucas Aerospace managers, it was instrumental in protecting jobs at Lucas in the 1970s. The Combine was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and Mike Cooley (an Irish-born trade-unionist involved in the Lucas Plan), received the Right Livelihood Award in 1982.

More information about the Plan, including the 53-page summary of the five 200 page volumes, can be found at www.lucasplan.org.uk.

On November 26th leading figures from the left, trade union, environmental and peace movements are coming together to celebrate it and use its ideas to tackle current crises. As part of the anniversary celebrations, there is a new documentary film screening of ‘The Plan’, book releases of the new edition’s of Mike Cooley’s ‘Architect or Bee’ and ‘The Lucas Plan: a new trade unionism in the making?’ and the Lucas Plan archive is being digitised. ‘The Plan’ is a new documentary film made with 5 of the workers who developed the Lucas Plan, telling the story of their campaign to transform their military orientated company towards socially useful production, will be shown at the conference.

For more time and venu details and to book your place please go to here. http://lucasplan.org.uk/tickets/

Why this matters to us now.

Forty years ago those shop stewards at Shaftsmoor Lane were talking about one of the same things we talked about at CND Conference in October 2016.

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MP Rebecca Long-Bailey addresses CND Conference

This year CND took note of the commitment made by Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party to ‘enter government with a [defence diversification] plan – discussed and agreed with communities, workforce, trade unions and industries affected over the next five years – for protecting skills and diversifying work so that no jobs or skills are ‘lost’

We also noted: ‘The decision of Unite the Union’s own Policy conference in July 2016 to welcome ‘the renewed focus Jeremy Corbyn has placed on defence diversification’ in the context of the priority he rightly places on world disarmament.

We believed that we must continue to expose the declining levels of employment Britain’s nuclear weapons systems have provided over the years and the failure of Trident replacement to provide any guaranteed employment to affected workers.

BUT Further work on employment generally, and defence diversification in particular, is a priority issue for the peace movement in order (a) to expose the inadequate job security associated with Trident and (b) develop our arguments in relation to investment in alternative employment

So we have come full circle.  The Lucas Aerospace plan was important 40 years ago.  Lucas Aerospace in Hall Green is no more, but the thinking behind the ideas that were dreamed up there are even more vital today.  This time let’s not use the tired old ‘we need to keep the jobs’ argument, spend 205 billion on making Trident. Instead come to this conference and see how diversification of nuclear weapons skills and technologies could work – now that we need it more than ever.  See how  we could build jobs, and keep nuclear weapons technology factories open in the future without Trident being in the picture.

We go to See Roger Godsiff, MP for Hall Green

Interviewing Roger Godsiff

Interviewing Roger Godsiff

This month we thought it was high time we popped in for a chat with Hall Green’s MP: the only MP in Birmingham to oppose the renewal of Trident in 2016.  Mr Godsiff has consistently voted against Trident in the House of Commons and has spoken out against the renewal of Trident on many occasions

We caught up with him at the end of a busy morning’s MP Surgery at the Sparkbrook Health and Community Centre.

Roger Godsiff’s View on Nuclear Weapons and War

What did he think about Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to Trident?  Mr Godsiff stressed that he felt Corbyn’s opposition was more from a moral stance, whereas he preferred to focus on the practical reasons for opposing Trident.  There is the cost factor, but he believes that Trident is simply an irrelevancy in the post-cold war period.  There was a time before the Berlin Wall came down and the Warsaw Pact was still in operation when it may have made sense to have an expensive nuclear weapons programme.  Now that time is passed.  There is no longer a serious nuclear threat but instead we are left with nuclear weapons which are hugely expensive to us to build and maintain. Moreover  these ‘British’ weapons only make up a fraction of the power of the American fleet of submarines and ‘our’ weapons are not independent, but continually serviced by the U.S.  We agree that this is an important point.  See the link here for more information about Trident and the US connection

A supporter of NATO, he believes that NATO should invest in non-nuclear weapons and also that as a country we should be spending more on properly protecting and equipping the soldiers we send abroad to fight in conventional wars.  Often, he said, protective clothing, for example is inadequate.

Another danger Mr Godsiff pointed out  is that a nuclear weapon is not, these days, extremely difficult to manufacture by people who really put their minds to it.  If the material is there it is also potentially available to terrorists.

Should we nuke Small Heath?

Should we Nuke Small HeathThe real threats these days, Mr Godiff said, cannot be addressed by nuclear weapons.  For example when he was MP for Small Heath there was a huge police operation because it turned out that one house contained a suicide-bomber who had strapped explosives to himself.  How do you deal with a threat like that, he asked?  Do you nuke Small Heath?  The answer is of course not!  Nothing is more ridiculously inappropriate.  Yet this is the real kind of threat this country is far more likely to face this days.  It is frightening, but we don’t need nuclear bombs: – one war head kills about a million and spreads radioactive material for a huge distance around – to address this kind of problem.

Formal Debate?

We also asked Mr Godsiff whether he might be interested in taking part in a local formal debate to discuss the renewal of Trident.  He said that, subject to date, obviously, he would be happy to take part.  So: watch this space.

National CND Conference 2015

CND 15-1 (lightened)

So How do we Stop a Trident Convey?

Every year since 1958 National CND has had a conference.  This is always a lively occasion where anti-nuclear campaigners from all over the country get together.  We have fun, of course: how do you stop a Trident submarine convey with deadly materials travelling through urban areas at dead of night?  simples: you just borrow a decent sized tank to block it off.  (Thanks East Mids CND!) or maybe you have a carnival on the road at midnight, involving day-glow skeleton suits.  (Joking apart, there is a deadly serious issue here.  If you want to help then check out the info in the download above.) This is also the time when we take stock and consider policy and main issues plans for the year ahead.

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A ‘returnee’ to CND explains how this summer’s leadership campaign brought her back to activity

This year, like just about every group left of the Tories, in the UK,  CND reported that they have had been enjoying recent membership surge, with 200 joining in the week before Conference alone.  It was widely agreed that attendance was well-up on last year.  This is obviously due to the recent developments on the British parliamentary political scene, plus of course the up-coming Trident renewal debate.

In the packed hall there were some notable presences.  Not only does it seem old CND campaigners do not die, they don’t fade away either.  So, in usual good form there was Bruce Kent, former National CND secretary and there was 92 year old Walter Wolfgang –  Walter was the star of that eviction from Labour Party conference by Jack Straw in 2008 when he arrested as a terrorist  for heckling.  It was also good to see Joy Hurcombe, a well-known Labour CND voice from the 1980s, still going strong.

But CND has always been proud to be a broad church and the platform also included the SNP and the Greens. Besides these speakers also represented were the International Peace Bureau, Stop the War, War on Want and the People’s Assembly.  In the gathering someone was from the Communist Party of Great Britain.  One young woman was heard announcing that she had ‘just joined the party’ – ‘No, no not that party.  the Lib-Dems’ – Tim Farron has also come out against Trident.

A certain Mr Corbyn, long one of CND’s four vice-chairs,  was star of Saturday evening for everyone though, when he slipped in quietly during the post-meetings Social
Jezza talking to CND delegates-cropped

From the UK’s new ‘threat to national security’ this was a strong message of continued support for CND and about the hard work ahead, particularly in the run-up to the Trident renewal debate in 2016, which may come earlier than expected.

The Motions

There were eleven motions in all.  Full details on all but one emergency motion are to be found in the CND Conference Booklet 2015 Below are some comments on the debates around three selected motions.

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Kate on opposing Trident Replacement Vote

First up was a motion from CND Chair Kate Hudson,  to campaign on the Trident replacement decision expected in parliament in 2016 – carried unanimously:  an obvious no-brainer.   We might as well have packed up, gone home there and then and never come back if we’d voted against that!  An amendment proposed by Newport CND suggested we should demand a national referendum.  This was more tricky.   Kate spoke against this amendment and a number of others followed in support. of Kate. Those in favour argued that a referendum would draw more attention, and even a ‘no’ vote would help to mobilise, as in Scotland. Those against pointed out that not only was CND risking possible damage from a loss (We are re-building well but not of SNP proportions yet!)  but also more specifically (1) There are good arguments in international law to suggest that Trident is illegal anyway and to endorse a referendum would suggest that we accepted some kind of legitimacy and (2) It would be the Government who would word the referendum, not us. The real weasel word at the moment (as Bruce had already pointed out earlier because it urgently needs our attention) is ‘deterrent’. Trident is not a deterrent (Howzabout ‘nuclear invitation’? I’m a big threat to you, so come and get me first.’)  referendum which asked people whether or not they supported a ‘nuclear deterrent’ could, I think, be very bad news – in fact subtle propaganda disguised as an opinion poll. This amendment failed by a large majority.

It was also passed unanimously to support  submariner William McNeilly  on his courageous decision to help expose the Trident nuclear weapons system as a ‘disaster waiting to happen’. Click here for a version of McNeilly’s report Not only have safety procedures on the subs been very lax for a long time, but there have been some very expensive near-misses. A crash near France cost 50 million pounds to put right. . In all there were 451 near accidents between 2009-13.

An emergency motion which caused some controversy and quite heated debate involved the civil war in Ukraine. The motion, which was finally passed was to continue campaigning against all foreign intervention in Ukraine, including by the British Government and to call for a ceasefire, calling for a more realistic analysis of NATO’s involvement than one which presents NATO’s actions as a defensive response to Russian aggression. Some people thought this meant we were pro-Putin.  Others  explained that CND has never been pro-Russia, .but singling out Russia as the sole cause of all the problems in the area is not helpful either. Much as Putin is an unpleasant individual we also need to acknowledge NATO’s own expansionist concern to continue to surround Russian and reduce its power. NATO is the real threat or, as one person put it:  ‘It is not because we love Russia but because we don’t want NATO.’

Catherine West

Catherine West is the new Shadow Foreign Minister.  She spoke in the SundayCatherine West speaking at CND15 section of the weekend: ‘Scrapping Trident: Strategising for Success in 2016.  She was representing Jeremy Corbyn  and she affirmed her support for the Corbyn ‘No Trident position. Imagine a member of the shadow cabinet being willing to speak to CND in support of cancelling Trident pre the 2015 Labour leadership election.  We have come a long way, but there is still work to do.

Len McClusky

UNITE’s general secretary has made contradictory statements, supporting Trident at the 2015 Labour Party Conference in order to protect members jobs  whilst, like many trade union’s the official UNITE policy position is to oppose the retention of the Trident system.   A 2010 UNITE conference resolution states:

[…] Britain should therefore give a lead in discharging its obligations by not seeking a replacement for Trident

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Tony Staunton from Plymouth calls for a debate in the Trade Unions about Trident

Some people expressed concerns that, despite the official support for Corbyn. there is an ‘old Blairite guard’ in this Union, and also in the GMB and these issues need attention.  A number of members who were in these unions spoke up and said they did not support the McClusky statements and were concerned about them. It was also pointed out that the total stated possible loss of jobs if Trident is cancelled appears to have been massively overstated.  The true figure may as low as 520 –  many more jobs than this are likely to be lost, with far less present publicity,  in the government’s recent Green policy reversals up to 30,000 job losses are estimated in solar power alone).   There has already been a highly useful study commissioned by Scottish CND and the Scottish Trades Union Congress.  You can download it here: STUC-CND Trident Report

Julie Ward MEP on the need to replace Trident jobs

Julie Ward MEP on the need to replace Trident jobs

This shows that jobs since the arrival of Trident in Barrow in Furness have actually dramatically decreased.  Trident does not ‘create’ job opportunities but destroy them, and their are many possibilities for redeployment in the public and environmental improvement sectors.  Anyone who is concerned about job losses in connection with the cancellation of Trident should study this accessible and comprehensive report.

Trident and the Law

One workshop explored this subject and later circulated a documen which can be downloaded here: Nuclear weapons and the law  Points here include that Trident appears to be illegal under the International Non-Proliferation Treaty concerning nuclear weapons, and signed by 190 states including the United Kingdom.  Ask anyone who claims to be a ‘multilateralist’ (This phrase has been the standard and beloved refuge of those who want to retain the UKs nuclear weapons for many a long decade)  if they support the NPT – or even know about it!

The Cost of Trident

Everyone who has paid attention already knows that Trident will cost at least 100 billion by 2060, probably more, and with £25 billion up front in the initial stages.  To intend to spend this money in a time of deep economic instability and drastic cuts hitting especially the poor.  (See Tax Credits debate this week) is craziness beyond imagining as Sam Fairbarn of the People’s Assembly outlined.

In Conclusion

All in all an enjoyable and informative conference working towards upholding our constitution

CND Aims - constitution-tuned upIn the company of many well-informed and hard-working campaigners

CND 15 - audience - croppedDon’t forget we are planning a huge ‘Stop Trident’ national demo, London, February 27th 2016 If you would like to join us for the urgent work ahead you can sign up to become a member of National CND here, for as little as £3.00 a year (depending on status) or contact Hall Green CND below by completing the form.

Election 2015: Will YOUR candidates vote for Trident in 2016?

Trident Vote 2015A decision on whether or not to replace the UK Trident nuclear submarine system – at a cost of £100bn – is due in 2016 and successfully elected Members of Parliament in the forthcoming 2015 General Election will have to vote on this.  CND wondered how parliamentary candidates are intending to vote.  We wrote to candidates in our area of Hall Green, Yardley and Solihull and asked them the four CND questions about their views on Trident at this time.  We are publishing the views received by CND (nationally or locally) in response to these questions.

The four questions asked are:

  • The UK’s submarine-based Trident nuclear weapon system is approaching the end of its operational life. Do you think the UK should replace its nuclear weapon system?
  • The next government will conduct a Strategic Defence and Security Review. Do you think that should consider the possibilities and implications of scrapping and not replacing Trident?
  • The next government will need to attend the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York. Do you think it should support a nuclear weapons convention or ban, similar to those for chemical or biological weapons?
  • The next government will have to decide whether to carry out the current coalition government’s projected austerity programme. Do you think spending £100 billion on Trident replacement can be justified?

To find out whether the person you are thinking of voting for has answered these questions, or otherwise whether they have given any indication of how they feel about Trident click on your Constituency name below.

Hall Green

Solihull

Yardley

Your chosen candidate missing?  It may be that they are still planning to respond, when they have time.  However, in a few days we will also give email addresses for missing candidates, so that you can write to them yourself, if you would like to.

 

Debate in Parliament

There was a debate in Parliament 20.01.2015. The motion was:

Trident should not be renewed

Roger GodsiffRoger Godsiff was present and voted for the motion. He spoke at length. Here are some points he made:

Roger Godsiff (Birmingham, Hall Green) (Lab):


I have always believed that NATO is the most successful mutual defence pact in history […]

I am one of the people who regret the change in strategy that resulted in NATO becoming the world’s policeman. That was dangerous, and it has put enormous strain on NATO, but it is still an effective mutual defence pact. I shall argue that that is how we get our security, rather than with the mythical idea that we have an independent nuclear deterrent […]

The UK does not own the missiles on its submarines. It leases Trident II D5 missiles from the United States […] I would say that we are totally dependent on America.

We acquired these weapons from the USA.

I would argue that we are far better off maintaining and developing our conventional forces […]

I also believe that the greatest threat to this country comes not from other countries but from groups, some of which operate outside this country but some of which operate within this country. In a choice between spending money on conventional weapons and improving our international security of committing £100 billion to a mythical so called independent deterrent, I know which I would choose. That is why I will be voting against my party and in favour of the motion.

You can read more of what he said and the whole debate here:Trident Renewal [20 Jan 2015]

John Hemming was not present at the debate but his stated position is that he believes that less money should be spent on Trident, and more on conventional forces.  less money on Trident and more money on conventional forces

It is worth reminding us of the workings of politicians: billions of pounds have been spent on the renewal of Trident already, i.e. before the Main Gate decision. So when the final Gate decision is going to be taken the arguments will be that we have spent so much already so that it will be wasteful not to continue.

(The development of the replacement submarines was broken down into three phases: concept, assessment and construction. The concept phase lasted from March 2007 (House of Commons vote) to May 2011 (publication of Parliamentary Initial Gate report). The assessment phase will last from May 2011 (Initial Gate) to the Main Gate decision, expected to take place in 2016 (as stated in the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010, and again in the initial Gate report). The Main Gate decision is where authorisation for construction is taken.)
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The Hall Green CND aim is to ask Hall Green and Yardley election candidates about their views on the renewal of Trident and post their answers on this site.