It is often argued that if a country has weapons of mass destruction it gives them leverage in a multinational framework, writes Lord Lea of Crondall.
Are we using that leverage or is it just an illusion?
The fact that Britain is carrying out a unilateral policy at the present time – not multilateral; means these weapons have a highly ambiguous relationship to the NATO framework.
Moreover it is now very widely acknowledged that the doctrine of mutually assured destruction - whereby we can obliterate Moscow at the same time as the Russians obliterate London - has passed its sell-by date.
It is a moot point where the greatest danger in the world now lies. But pursuing the UN policy for a nuclear free zone in the Middle East in other words including Iran and Israel - is of the highest priority given the danger that someone may actually do the unthinkable and explode one of these weapons.
The question arises whether we and indeed the French are doing all we can under Article 6 of the Non Proliferation Treaty to meet the objection which provides for all states to move towards nuclear disarmament.
We seem to be moving towards a decision to spend 100 billion pounds or so on the Trident replacement. Over its lifespan this will be to some extent at the expense of weapons and man power for the army, navy and air force. A point made in the research for the widely respected Trident Commission
But this discussion cannot be left to the experts in the Ministry of Defence or MI6. There are signs of public scepticism for going for full replacement in 2016.
After 2016 we need not so much a Royal Commission, but a National Conversation. I hope all of the political parties are open to a listening process around the country.
It is not a taboo, but it is not being debated in a rational way – rather it is a subject of three or four mantras on each side.
Lord Lea of Crondall - a Labour member of the House of Lords is secretary of the APPG on Global Security and Non Proliferation. However he is not writing in that capacity.