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9 October 2007: for immediate release

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has today called for an urgent Parliamentary debate in response to renewed speculation that the Government is discussing hosting further components of the US Missile Defence system in the UK.Speculation has centred on the installation of an X-Band missile tracking radar here in the UK, and the possibility that interceptor rockets could be located at a US air base in the UK, possibly RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.

In a written statement on the last day before the Commons summer recess, the Government announced that it had approved a US request to use the Menwith Hill spy base in Yorkshire as part of the system. It also confirmed that the radar at RAF Fylingdales had also been upgraded.

An X-Band Radar, used to precisely track a missile course (in contrast to the wide-field view of the Fylingdales radar) would either be located at an existing US base such as Menwith Hill near Harrogate, or on a floating platform in the North Sea, similar to an oil rig. An existing Sea Based X-Band Radar, used in the Pacific, has been given the designation ‘SBX-1’ implying that further vessels will be produced.

It has been reported that the new British Ambassador to Washington – and Tony Blair’s former foreign policy adviser – Sir Nigel Sheinwald, has been tasked with negotiating a key role for Britain in the project. A Foreign Office spokesperson has confirmed this, stating that “Britain is giving its full support to US plans to site its missile-defence system in Europe. Britain has regular discussions over our possible role but talks are at an early stage.” The suggestion that talks ‘are at an early stage’ indicates that further as-yet unannounced components may be based in the UK, in addition to those already confirmed.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “We demand an urgent Commons debate on Missile Defence and insist that any decision on UK participation must be made by parliament. It is a disgrace that the government is secretly negotiating to place more US military assets in this country. The overwhelming majority of the public wants to see a more independent foreign policy. The Government has consistently misled Parliament and the public about Missile Defence in the past – it must not repeat this duplicity.”

She continued, “The previously announced installations already put us in the front line in future US wars. But if the interceptor rockets are stationed at the US Air Force base at Lakenheath – a site with 110 US nuclear bombs – any attempt by those hostile to the US to knock-out this system could result in millions of UK deaths. And all this is for a system that far from being defensive, will allow the US to wage war free from the fear of retaliation.

Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North, who has the US base at Lakenheath a number of miles from his constitutency said, “There is clearly a lot of debate around Missile Defence. In the light of the new democratic Parliament with the new Prime Minister, it is important that we have a frank and transparent debate where we are able to learn all the facts and act accordingly.” [see note 5 for a letter from 27 MPs on this subject]

Fabian Hamilton, MP for Leeds North East and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, whose constituency is near to Menwith Hill said “I understood that this was to be discussed in the House of Commons and so far the people of Yorkshire have not had the opportunity to have their say on this subject through their elected members of Parliament. I intend to raise this matter with the Defence Secretary, Des Browne, at the earliest opportunity.”

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Notes to Editors:

1. For further information and interviews please contact Ben Soffa, CND’s Press & Communications Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859

2. Ian Gibson was part of a group of 27 MPs who called for a Commons debate on the issue in a letter to the press shortly after the Government annoucenment in July:

We are greatly concerned by the government’s announcement that the communication base at Menwith Hill is to be used for US missile defence, alongside the Fylingdales radar, both in Yorkshire (Britain insists on joint role at ‘son of Star Wars’ base, August 2). The continued and increasing involvement in US missile defence potentially puts the UK on the frontline in future wars. It has already contributed towards increased tensions with Russia. US missile defence is provocative, allowing the US to launch first-strike attacks without fear of retaliation, and increases the likelihood of a new nuclear arms race. We therefore believe that any UK support for the programme should be fully debated and agreed by parliament, rather than by ministerial announcement.
Colin Burgon MP, Martin Caton MP, Mick Clapham MP, Frank Cook MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Jim Devine MP, Paul Flynn MP, Neil Gerrard MP, Ian Gibson MP, Fabian Hamilton MP, Mike Hancock MP, Nick Harvey MP, Brian Iddon MP, Lynne Jones MP, Peter Kilfoyle MP, John Leech MP , Michael Meacher MP, John McDonnell MP, Linda Riordan MP, Angus Robertson MP, Clare Short MP, Jon Trickett MP, Phil Willis MP.

6. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere.