Kingston Peace News - February 2015

Bon Voyage Harry & Betty

Harry farewell - We have it in our power to begin the world over again.  Thomas PaineStalwart members of Kingston Peace Council/CND for many years, Harry and Betty Davis left the UK during a freezing, wet January to emigrate to Harry’s native Australia to be closer to their family.

Pictured right, at a farewell party organised by Kingston Peace Council/CND Betty watches as Harry displays a farewell gift bearing a quote from his literary hero Thomas Paine.

Quakers object to schools teaching military ethos

Government spending millions

Quakers in Britain have responded to the Department for Education announcement of a £4.8 million “Character Innovation Fund” for schools by sending an Open Letter at the end of last year to the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan.

The letter said:

‘Quakers in Britain were dismayed to learn this week that almost all of the recently announced £5 million “Character Innovation Fund” for schools has been allocated to providers of a “Military Ethos” such as Challenger Troop and Commando Joe’s.

Quakers believe that a military ethos is not what young people need. While it claims to engender altruism, aspiration and teamwork, these are not the exclusive preserve of the military.  A military culture is one of blind obedience, not the critical thinking learners need, and is founded on the normalisation of violence.  

The letter goes on:  

‘Quakers have worked for peace for over 350 years.  Therefore we understand that helping young people facing life difficulties is undoubtedly crucial for healthy communities.  There are many successful programmes in which young people develop character outside a military ethos.’

Drone threats closer to home

Nuclear power plants could be a target, warns expert

Nuclear power stations are highly vulnerable to drone attack, according to a confidential report that British ministers are being urged to consider. Compiled by a British nuclear expert, John Large, the report followed a number of unexplained, but apparently co-ordinated, flights of tiny, unmanned vehicles over French nuclear installations, said an article in The Independent in December. Mr Large was reported as saying that the grave issues uncovered in France were equally relevant to the UK's 16 operational reactors. In public evidence to the French parliament, he said that he measured the defences of a standard nuclear power plant against different types of attack that could be launched by drones, such as precisely placed explosive devices and the dropping off of equipment that would aid an insider saboteur.

Fared very badly

Existing nuclear power plants, he told French legislators, were not designed to counter the threat of "near-cyborg technology". He warned: "In each of the four… attack scenarios that I examined, the plant fared very badly indeed – if these scenarios had been for real, then there would have been the potential for a major radioactive release."

Mr Large's modelling showed that the "flexible access and manoeuvrability of the drones" meant they could fly over and twist around physical barriers that "belonged to a different age".

Even small, battery-powered drones could lift 10 or more kilograms of cargo, while vehicles available in high street hobbyist shops are "certainly not toys but machines capable of following and discharging intelligent commands". British officials have looked at Mr Large's evidence and forwarded it to the Office for Nuclear Regulation, but it is not known whether they have yet requested a copy of the report itself. The Independent quoted Energy Secretary Ed Davey saying: "It's unlikely that this report would tell us anything that we haven't already looked at, but if anyone has anything that could help us with our number one priority – safety and security – we would like to see it." Mr Large’s investigations were commissioned by Greenpeace France. Mr Large – who is neither a member nor a supporter of Greenpeace – was due this month to meet with France's nuclear and safety regulators, along with the Ministry of Defence, illustrating how seriously the French are taking his findings.

Two men and one woman were arrested near the Belleville-sur-Loire reactor in the Cher region, south of Paris, late last year after using remote-controlled vehicles in a restricted area within 200 metres of the plant. However, they were released after it emerged that they were simply model aircraft enthusiasts operating in an unfortunate location.

Still unexplained

Their release leaves a wave of intrusions, mostly at night, still unexplained. These have occurred in restricted airspace over 13 French nuclear plants since early October. On one evening, there were five co-ordinated flyovers at stations located hundreds of miles apart.

Dr David Lowry, a consultant researcher for the World Institute for Nuclear Security in Vienna, said: "My general view is that all nuclear facilities are at risk of malevolent terrorist attack, but [this] is something that most politicians brush under the carpet."

A meeting with Energy Secretary Ed Davey

Members of TRAKNAT met with Kingston and Surbiton MP and Energy Secretary Ed Davey

Paul Tippell, chair of Twickenham, Richmond, And Kingston Network against the Arms Trade (TRAKNAT), Kingston Peace Council/CND chair Noel Hamel and members Rosemary Addington and Angela Cooper met with Ed Davey to ask if he would put pressure on fellow Lib Dem, the Business Secretary Vince Cable to enforce a number of issues relating to arms sales.

These included reversing his (Cable’s) earlier decisions not to improve transparency and not to implement a register of arms brokers.

Paul said that despite TRAKNAT having met with Dr Cable, the Cabinet Member responsible for these issues, there was disappointment within the Group with his response.

Paul then outlined three specific issues for discussion at the meeting.

  1. Greater transparency in arms export licensing
  2. A more rigorous approach to risk when assessing arms export licences
  3. A Public Register of Arms Brokers.

After a discussion during which he outlined the various limitations of working within a coalition Mr Davey agreed to speak to Dr Cable after Paul wrote to him with specific details of the arguments aired at the meeting.

New Year’s Resolutions from Stop the War

At the start of 2015 the world looks a very dangerous place, says the Stop the War Coalition. “Large parts of the Middle East are in flames as the West continues its third war in Iraq in recent years. Violence is spiking in Afghanistan, tensions between Russia and the West are approaching Cold War levels and terrorism is spreading across large parts of the globe. Much of this is the legacy of the West's disastrous recent wars, but current policies are making matters dramatically worse.”

A strong and growing anti-war movement is absolutely essential.

Please make it your New Year's resolution to help Stop the War Coalition:

Make a donation in just a few clicks to fund STW campaigns work in 2015

Stop the War summer conference

Stop the War is planning a conference after the election to discuss war and imperialism in the 21st century. It will cover a number of different topics and aims to present an alternative view to the dominant one of militarism and war fed by successive governments. Date and place to be announced very soon.

The Importance of the Peace Movement

A reflection by Harry Davis

To take a fresh look at the story of nuclear weapons and how the problem posed by their invention and use has been handled, we must now go back 70 years. On re-examination, the first impression is how the problem has grown exponentially since 1945. Attitudes have changed. In the beginning there was real shock at the power of the new weapon, a bomb that was capable of such immense, indiscriminate destruction. At first, a genuine effort was made at top level to control, and even to ban the Bomb: the United States offered to destroy its nuclear arsenal, which contained all the atom bombs in the world, and at the time consisted of perhaps only two atom bombs, provided guarantees were given and safeguards put in place so that no other nation could make atomic weapons. With the Baruch plan we came very near to sensible control: with its failure a manic arms race began.

What followed after the failure of a cooperative solution was the nuclear arms race, the essential driver of the Cold War, the militarisation of the post-war world. Soon the hydrogen bomb was invented. If the atom bomb was terrifying, there are no words to describe the hydrogen bomb. Its power had no theoretical limits. Before long hydrogen bombs were exploded that had thousands of times the power of the Hiroshima bomb.

Difficulties multiplied

In the days before the difficulties of control were multiplied by the invention and manufacture of the intercontinental ballistic missile and its precise targeting by satellite navigation, hydrogen bombs were carried in aircraft, and the bombs chosen had the power of 250 atom bombs. (This was the size of the H-bomb that fell from the disintegrating US B-52G Stratofortress on 23rd January 1961. This bomb came near to exploding, and would have destroyed most of North Carolina). At that time each of these bombs had a lethal zone of 17 miles radius, so that it could destroy the largest city and all the people in it, about whom the only thing known for sure was that they were powerless, and innocent. This was the size of bomb that was considered appropriate by politicians during the Cold War. The arsenals contained thousands of them. From its initial single source, the Bomb has today spread to nine nations.

That is how the problem posed by the atom bomb has been handled.

Hopes naïve

We live in an age when hopes of a brighter future seem naïve. There have been times when optimism was the fashion, and could be justified, times when the old order that had been responsible for senseless wars and human misery had been overthrown, especially towards the end of the eighteenth century when the United States of America was founded. Today those same United States constitute the most powerful military nation the world has ever seen, and has turned into a bully. Moreover, those who still cling to the hopes that inspired the founding of the United Nations Organisation in 1945 are now looked upon as unrealistic dreamers, with dangerous delusions concerning the possibility of a gentler world.

Today the human population has already exploded beyond the capacity of the planet to sustain, the temperature is rising towards a critical level due to burning of fossil fuels, and the complex life-support system of the Earth is being everywhere threatened by human activity. Will there ever be a time of hope again?

That depends on whether today’s problems can be successfully addressed. These problems are solvable, but depend on a degree of cooperation never before achieved, and the inept way the Bomb has been handled indicates the likely outcome of efforts to overcome these other problems. The Bomb is a man-made, almost gratuitous problem, self-inflicted. It is very easy to solve with a modicum of cooperation between nations. The other problems will need changes of lifestyle, and will require considerable sums of money. Solving the problem of the Bomb, on the other hand, would require no extra resources, but on the contrary would lift a considerable financial burden (just the running cost of Britain’s Trident is, on the government’s own figures, six million pounds of taxpayers’ money every day). Yet there has been no credible attempt at top level to solve this simplest, if presently most dangerous, of contemporary problems, and until it is solved there is not much chance that proper attention will be paid to the other, looming problems. The unimaginative, adversarial frame of mind that has led to today’s situation with nuclear weapons will not produce solutions when applied to global warming.

How then can one believe in a safer, more prosperous future? Optimism has gone out of fashion, and it is easy to see why.

The first step towards a better future is the successful ridding the world of the Bomb. That is a necessary start, and would constitute a proof that sensible cooperation between nations was possible. That is the central importance of the peace movement. Top-down decision-making has failed, and has led to today’s world. Today the only pressure for disarmament within those nations with the Bomb comes from below, from the threatened people themselves. The importance, and the responsibility, of the peace movement is great indeed.

This, we hope, will not be Harry’s last article for Kingston Peace News. Although he and his wife Betty have emigrated to Australia we hope he will find time now and again to send us some news and opinions from Down Under. - Ed

Annual General Meeting

Wednesday 11th February 2015 7.45pm

Kingston Peace Council/CND’s AGM will be held at Kingston Quaker Centre, Fairfield East, Kingston, KT1 2PT (map and directions)

All members are urged to attend. This is your chance to tell us how you think the group should be organised, and what you think we should be doing.

We should also welcome new people to help run the group. Members are elected at the AGM to take on particular responsibilities. We do not hold formal committee meetings, but communicate with each other by telephone or email.

The position of Secretary has been vacant for the last 3 years, so if you feel able to assist with this, or any other officer roles, or in any other way, please put your name forward - you do not have to wait for someone to nominate you - contact either Gill or Hilary (see contacts page) to discuss what’s involved, or just come along to the AGM.

We look forward to seeing you!

Trident’s fate becomes an election issue

Likelihood of hung Parliament boosts Scots Nats’ power, reports Phillip Cooper

Trident will be a feature of the forthcoming General Election, despite a recent Parliamentary debate in which MPs voted overwhelmingly in support of upgrading the nuclear so-called deterrent.

An opposition day debate, promoted by the Scottish Nationalists, Plaid Cymru and the Greens, brought MPs from all parties to the floor of the House of Commons on January 20 to discuss whether the planned upgrade of the submarine-borne nuclear weapons system should go ahead at a price widely estimated to be £100 billion.

Although the vote following the debate saw this motion to axe the upgrade defeated by 327 votes to 37 (see details below) recent polling and the realpolitik of the forthcoming election means the issue will not go away. It could even affect the make up of the next government.

A survey carried out in Scotland in January on behalf of the SNP showed 47.2% of those polled did not want the upgrade of Clyde-based Trident submarines to go ahead, against 31.6% who did. Another poll for The Guardian a month earlier had 43% of respondents wanting Trident scrapped altogether against 37% who wanted to keep it.

Official party line

Although the official Labour Party line, expressed by Shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker in the Commons debate, is “that it is right for the UK to maintain a credible, minimum independent nuclear deterrent based on a continuous at-sea posture,” Labour’s ability to form the next UK government may well be dependent on forming an alliance with the SNP which, polls suggest, may capture a majority of the 40 current Labour seats north of the border.

With this in mind it is not surprising that several of the 19 Labour MPs who supported the motion to abandon the Trident upgrade represent Scottish seats that are under threat from the nationalists. Scottish SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear that Labour’s attitude towards Trident would be a principal consideration determining whether the SNP, possibly with as many as three dozen MPs, would support a minority Labour government’s bid for power after the May 7 election.

The full debate on the ‘axe the upgrade’ motion is worth reading and can be accessed online at on the page covering debates on 20 January. Interestingly, the 37 MPs who voted with the motion to abandon the Trident upgrade included 19 Labour, five Lib Dems, five SNP, two Plaid Cymru, two SDLP, one Tory, one Alliance (Northern Ireland), one Green and one Respect. In addition to the ‘usual suspects’ among the Labour MPs and the Scottish Labour MPs it is interesting to note that David Lammy, a potential future Labour candidate for London Mayor, supported the motion. The one Tory was Crispin Blunt, member for Reigate who said he had become “increasingly uncomfortable” about renewing Trident.

Neither Vince Cable nor Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat cabinet ministers and MPs for Twickenham and Kingston & Surbiton respectively, took part in the vote.

MPs who voted to abandon the Trident upgrade were:

Abbott, Ms Diane (Lab); Blunt, Crispin (Tory); Campbell, Ronnie (Lab); Clark, Katy (Lab); Connarty, Michael (Lab); Corbyn, Jeremy (Lab); Crockart, Mike (LD) Davidson, Ian (Lab); Durkan, Mark (SDLP); Flynn, Paul (Lab); Galloway, George (Respect); George, Andrew (LD); Godsiff, Roger (Lab); Hancock, Mike (LD); Hopkins, Kelvin (Lab); Hosie, Stewart (SNP); Huppert, Dr Julian (LD); Lammy, David (Lab); Lazarowicz, Mark (Lab); Llwyd, Elfyn (Plaid); Long, Naomi (Alliance) Lucas, Caroline (Green); MacNeil, Angus (SNP); McDonnell, John (Lab); Morris, Grahame (Lab); O'Donnell, Fiona (Lab) Osborne, Sandra (Lab); Ritchie, Margaret (SDLP); Robertson, Angus (SNP); Skinner, Dennis (Lab); Smith, Andrew (Lab); Stringer, Graham (Lab); Walley, Joan (Lab); Weir, Mike (SNP); Whiteford, Dr Eilidh (SNP); Williams, Hywel (Plaid); Williams, Mark (LD).

Remembering Lib

Lib Rowland-Hughes cartoon
Cartoon by Dai Owen
In the last edition we reported the sad news that Lib Rowland-Hughes had died at the age of 96. News of her passing has brought a wave of tributes and reminiscences from those who knew her in the peace movement across the UK.

Below are extracts from just a few of these.

Genny Bove

Elizabeth (Lib) Rowland-Hughes, who has died at her home in Llangollen, Denbighshire, aged 96, campaigned for peace all her adult life and was still doing so with her trademark good humour and enthusiasm until just a few weeks ago. I'm not the only person who is going to miss Lib's frequent phone calls to alert me to snippets of news or particularly good letters to the press, the envelopes she filled with newspaper cuttings, articles she'd copied out by hand or photocopied, along with some great cartoons and the odd poem or political postcard. I think I had at least three such letters in the last month; in one of these - when I must have been ill - Lib tells me to 'be a good girl and keep warm'! Lib was born at the very end of the First World War into a family that included influential preachers and pacifists, was raised in the wake of this terrible conflict that claimed the lives of a whole generation of young men from all classes including four of Lib's uncles, and has died 100 years after its start. She had no time at all for the glorification of war and deplored the way this sombre anniversary has been exploited to drum up patriotic fervour and support for the latest round of warfare, which she opposed to the last.

Worked tirelessly

Lib well remembered spending time with her older cousins, the Davies sisters at Gregynog, and with another member of the same family, the well known pacifist, peace campaigner and MP for the University of Wales George M Ll Davies. In the 1950s, she was part of the movement that became CND and much of her activism thereafter focused on nuclear issues. Along with her cousin Gwen, Lib was a key player in the local peace groups that worked tirelessly at home and joined with others across the country to campaign for a nuclear free world, in all kinds of creative and imaginative ways. In 1982 at the announcement of the Declaration, Gwen and Lib went to the main roads on the English Border to erect “You are now entering Nuclear Free Wales” signs.

Lib engaged enthusiastically with anyone from any background who showed themselves to be at all open-minded and thus gained friends from all walks of life across the country and beyond, while those who put power or privilege before common sense and decency were liable to find themselves on the receiving end of her tireless activism, from letters and phone calls to anarchic direct action.

When the stuffy Llangollen International Eisteddfod committee refused the peace group a stall because it was 'political', Lib and her friends set up in a back garden adjoining the Eisteddfod field and lured visitors through a gap in the hedge.

During the Snowball campaign in the 1980s, Lib was one of the activists who used the symbolic cutting of the fence of nuclear facilities such as Capenhurst to highlight nuclear issues. While the state achieved convictions on criminal damage charges after the plastic coating of single strands of wire had been pierced with such implements as blunt nail scissors, the clear winners were the anti-nuclear activists who raised public awareness across the country on the back of these ridiculous court cases.

I only knew Lib after all this, in the final decade of her life. Lib made herself known to me, like many others, after I had a letter printed in the local paper and she got hold of my phone number and called to introduce herself. I'm so glad she did. Chatting to Lib on the phone or when I visited her now and again was an education and her ability to place current events in their historical context invaluable. With their shared love of fossils, Lib also struck up quite a friendship with my partner Alan. We visited together one afternoon after a walk up Dinas Bran where Alan had found a small trilobite which he pulled out of his pocket to show Lib. She was delighted at the unintended gift, clutching it to her chest and saying "Oh, Thank you! Thank you!" We didn't have the heart to ask for it back.

We're going to miss you, Lib.

Bruce Kent

Wonderful Lib. A really great lady with a big heart. A sad day but a great life.

Lindis Percy

Lib was an extraordinary woman and it’s so sad she has gone but she made such a contribution to peace in the world … Her commitment and tireless striving for peace was awesome. The world is bereft now that she has gone.

Felicity Arbuthnot

Lib died on the 98th anniversary of the infamous Balfour letter granting a "homeland" for the Jewish people in Palestine (3rd November 1917), it just struck me. Lord Balfour is going to get one hell of a ticking off heading his way.

Derek & Carol Williams

Libby came with us to hear a peace-related talk at Chester Friends' Meeting House. As we passed Chester police station, Libby remarked that the cells had wonderful acoustics. She had been amongst a number of demonstrators held there and they had passed the time singing encouraging songs to one another!

‘You can’t have this kind of war. There just aren’t enough bulldozers to scrape the bodies off the streets.’

President Dwight Eisenhower 1956

Stop Press

The threat posed by nuclear weapons has increased dramatically, according to the scientists who maintain the Doomsday Clock. The minute hand of the clock was moved forward by two minutes during January and now stands at three minutes to midnight reflecting the probability of a global catastrophe brought about either by unchecked climate change or nuclear arms. The clock is set by a team of international scientists, including 17 Nobel Prize winners, and their deliberations are reported in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, based in Chicago.

Newsletter Editor for this issue: Phil Cooper

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND