UK Politics

Corbyn invited to discuss threats following nuclear row

General Sir Nicholas Houghton
Image caption Sir Nicholas insists that Trident is not obsolete and is being used every day

The defence secretary has invited Jeremy Corbyn to discuss security threats with the UK's top general after a row between the two men.

Mr Corbyn reacted angrily after Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) Sir Nicholas Houghton questioned his refusal to launch nuclear weapons if he became PM.

The Labour leader said the military should remain politically neutral.

But Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said it was "entirely proper" for Sir Nicholas to express a view.

The row, which took place on Remembrance Sunday, highlighted tensions within Labour over the role that Trident has to play in defence policy, with Mr Corbyn at odds with many of his MPs and shadow ministers over the issue.

Speaking during the Labour party conference in September, Mr Corbyn - who is a longstanding opponent of nuclear weapons and supporter of unilateral disarmament - stated that he could not see the circumstances in which he would be prepared to order a nuclear attack.

'Ultimate guarantee'

Sir Nicholas said he would be worried if such an approach was "translated into power", prompting Mr Corbyn to argue that the head of the armed forces had overstepped the mark and breached conventions that the military should stay out of party political matters.

Mr Corbyn lodged an official protest with the Ministry of Defence over the comments. But writing back to Mr Corbyn, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon defended the military chief's right to respond to questions about the UK's security.

"In his interview, CDS was - as he stated expressly - making a point about the credibility of the deterrent rather than any individual," he wrote.

"As the principal military adviser to the government, I consider it entirely proper for him to answer how we maintain the credibility of the ultimate guarantee of our security."

He added: "CDS is unwavering in his commitment to the principle that members of the armed forces are politically neutral and serve The Queen and he government of the day. I am confident that he will continue to uphold it.

"As you a now a member of the Privy Council, I would like to extend an invitation to meet with CDS and the other defence chiefs to discuss the current threats to our national security."

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