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Bishop: ‘We can never use nuclear bombs, so to own them and perpetuate the myth of deterrence is a moral failure’

20th Feb 2018

Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, has called on the government to be part of the United Nations High-level Conference on Disarmament in May this year – or explain why not.

“Will we be there?” asked the Bishop. “And if not, why not?”

This conference follows on from the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last year.

Addressing the House of Lords, Bishop Stephen said:

The question before us is, I think, a simple one: when a majority of the world’s countries are working within this UN framework to achieve non-proliferation and the ultimate goal of disarmament - multilateral disarmament - why won’t we even engage with the process?

If we are so convinced that nuclear weapons are so helpful in keeping peace in the world, what have we to fear from discussion with those who think differently? Why can’t we even send an observer?  Or is it the case, as I suspect, that in our hearts we know that we can never use these bombs, and therefore to own them and to perpetuate the myth of deterrence is a moral failure…?"

The Bishop added that if it is right to say that cluster bombs - which had already been banned - should not be manufactured or used, and that they are immoral, but we argue that nuclear weapons could be used, we are breaking a convention which civilisation had succeeded in setting up to mitigate the brutalities of war, and we put ourselves in a very weak position to lecture others.

Read the Bishop’s speech.    

The Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, was speaking on 20 February 2018 in the House of Lords Debate on the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading to Their Total Elimination.

The UN High-level Conference on Disarmament in May 2018 follows on from the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017. This treaty confirmed that the longstanding obligation to negotiate disarmament is an obligation under international law. It is because of the failure of the nuclear armed states to make multilateral progress that the United Nations now rightly takes a more substantive role.