Secrets, lies and the bomb

Houses of Parliament (Reuters / Andrew Winning)

Today’s debate in Parliament is a rare chance to put Britain’s hidden world of nuclear weapons under scrutiny, says JEREMY CORBYN

Today for three hours there will be a debate in Parliament’s Westminster Hall on the US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA). This debate has been jointly sponsored by me and Julian Lewis MP.

This agreement was signed in 1958 by the then British and US governments and is supposed to be the subject of a 10-yearly review, with a process put through both parliaments.

In the relative transparency of the US congressional system they debate a message from the President and approve or otherwise his proposal. In the case of Britain, it’s all bound up with a miasma of secrecy surrounding anything to do with nuclear weapons and the power over Parliament held by the Prime Minister in his exercise of the royal prerogative relating to treaties.

In 1994 Alan Simpson, former MP for Nottingham South, secured a bizarre late-night discussion on this under the consolidated fund procedure, a quaint and archaic parliamentary process by which MPs could raise any subject they like that related in some way to government expenditure.

No debate was granted in 2004 but after several months of badgering ministers and the Leader of the House over this, the backbench business committee granted this debate.