Election 2017

Corbyn: Labour is committed to renewing Trident

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn says the party is committed to Trident, as well as multi-lateral disarmament

Labour is "committed" to renewing Trident nuclear weapons, Jeremy Corbyn has stressed, after disagreement between two of his frontbenchers.

On Friday, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry suggested that Labour might change its stance on the weapons after holding a review if it won power.

Shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith disputed this, saying Labour was "fully committed" to the nuclear deterrent.

PM Theresa May said Labour "could not be trusted" to defend the country.

Labour's manifesto - launched on Tuesday - included support for renewing Trident, even though Mr Corbyn is a long-standing opponent of nuclear weapons.

The Commons backed the renewal of Trident in 2016, by 472 votes to 117, approving the manufacture of four replacement submarines. Labour was split over the issue, with 140 of its 230 MPs going against their leader and backing the motion in a free vote.

Mr Corbyn, campaigning in Birmingham ahead of the 8 June election, said the party's manifesto was "very clear".

Speaking to reporters after a rally, Mr Corbyn said: "The manifesto makes it very clear that the Labour Party has come to a decision and is committed to Trident.

"We're also going to look at the real security needs of this country on other areas such as cyber security, which I think the attack on our NHS last week proved there needs to be some serious re-examination of our defences against those kind of attacks."

Pressed again, he said: "I've just made it clear and included in our manifesto is an absolute commitment which is given by party and which is given by me that we will also pursue multilateral disarmament through the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and that is a position that has been held for a long time by the party."

The issue resurfaced following an interview with shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry on LBC radio on Friday, in which she said she was "sceptical" about Trident.

When asked to confirm that it would remain Labour policy after a defence review, she added: "Well no, of course not, if you are going to have a review, you have to have a review."

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Media captionMs Griffith said Labour was "absolutely committed" to Trident

But shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith told BBC Newsnight: "With all due respect, Emily is not the shadow defence secretary. I am."

She said the party was "fully committed" to having a nuclear deterrent and that the defence review would look at how a Labour government would spend money.

"What it is not about is actually questioning whether we would have a Trident nuclear deterrent because we settled that last year," she added.

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Asked if Ms Thornberry was wrong, Ms Griffith went on: "Indeed. Last year we looked at it, in particular, at the national policy forum and it was decided that we would keep the nuclear deterrent."

Former shadow minister John Woodcock, who is standing again in the Barrow and Furness constituency where the new nuclear submarines are being developed, said Trident's renewal had already "passed the point of no return".

'It's tough'

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Whether you're in favour of Trident renewal or not, it's kind of tough now because it's happening. We had the vote last year, we've put the project past the point of no return."

He added: "Where I am now I can look over at Barrow shipyard which is employing 9,000 people and has already cut steel on the submarines, so this is going to go ahead."

Full list of candidates in Barrow and Furness

Asked whether the policy could yet be reversed were Ms Thornberry to become foreign secretary, Mr Woodcock said: "Well I'm afraid she's not going to be - and Labour is going to be in opposition. But the important thing is that we have as strong an opposition as we can."

BBC political correspondent Mark Lobel said Ms Thornberry's team had since said there was no difference between the two shadow ministers in terms of party policy and she had been expressing her personal view about Trident's viability and costs.

Prime Minister Theresa May, remarked on the row during a campaign visit in Ealing, west London. She said it showed Labour "would not be unequivocally committed to the Trident nuclear deterrent".

She said: "They would not be able to defend this country. A Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government could not be trusted with the defence of our country."

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