On 21 October Councillor Maya Evans proposed the following motion at a full meeting of Hastings Borough Council -
I move - that Hastings Borough Council mark the 75 years since the atomic
bombing of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantly killing an estimated
185,000 civilians, which is more than double the population of Hastings, by a
letter of solidarity and friendship to the municipal authorities of both cities. To
mark the 50th anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Hastings
Borough Council calls upon the UK government to reverse plans to spend
205bn pounds on the upgrade of our national nuclear arsenal.
As the representatives of our community it is our patriotic duty to ask for this
money to be spent on guaranteeing the citizens of deprived coastal towns,
such as Hastings, have access to world class health, education and housing.
It is our obligation as the stewards of our local environment to call on the
government to spend this money in protecting our local, national and global
We recognise the horrors of war for everyone unfortunate enough to be
caught up in one, witnessing and experiencing violence which undoubtably
scar people for life, both mentally and physically. Many of the homeless
people on our streets bravely served in British wars, while refugees from those
very same wars now flee for their lives and end up on our shores in Hastings.
There are many victims of war.
To this end we resolve to write to the Secretary of State for Defence (Ben
Wallace) asking for absolute guarantees that our serving citizens are in receipt
of the very best to guarantee their safe return from active duty to family and
into satisfying future employment.
We also resolve to write to the Home Office asking for Britain to take its fair
responsibility for people displaced in war, which this country has been actively
involved with, acknowledging international human rights.
From Hastings, a small town on the global stage, we can still reach out to unite
with other voices to promote peace and reconciliation by supporting a
Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Treaty. Therefore, we call on our government
to sign and ratify it.
You can follow the whole debate here. (Note that the meeting begins a minute or two after the start of the recording).|
Here is what Maya told the Council -
Before addressing the substance of this motion I'd like to say this: if Covid-19
has taught us anything, it is that the planet is connected. A virus breaks out in a
wet market on the other side of the world - within a few months it has us all
locked up in our homes. At previous council meetings I've made the same
point about climate change: melting icecaps on the other side of the planet will
eventually mean we, in Hastings, will feel the fallout from rising sea levels and
Today we see our global community of scientists working together, sharing
information and data on how best to combat Covid-19. And when a vaccine is
pioneered, the right thing to do is to share the patent so that everyone in the
world is protected. Or the disease will continue to spread.
An isolationist approach in trying to solve global problems does not work. It
cannot work for pandemics, it won't work for climate change and indeed it will
not work for nuclear weapons.
Just as we face economic depression and a second wave of the coronavirus
pandemic, it surely makes little sense to invest 205bn pounds renewing the Trident
205 billion pounds would be enough to improve the NHS by building 120 state-of-the-art hospitals and employing 150,000 new nurses; it would be enough to build 3
million new homes and install solar panels in every home in the UK, or pay the
tuition fees for 8 million students.
Just imagine how much a town like Hastings would benefit from this injection
This is my answer to people who say "what have nuclear weapons 75 years ago
on the other side of the planet got to do with Hastings?"
So why is this motion before us today?
The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is now only three
signatures short of being ratified.
It is expected that, by the end of this month, the first legally binding
international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons will be
ratified, with its ultimate goal their total elimination.
In the same way landmines and cluster bombs were made illegal, this treaty
will delegitimize nuclear states: their banks and corporations will face boycotts
and disinvestment as pressure mounts to create a nuclear-weapons-free
In passing this motion tonight, Hastings will join the International Campaign to
Abolish Nuclear Weapons Cities Appeal, contributing to mounting global
pressure and responding to a worldwide changing tide of opinion.
Hastings also calls upon our Government to sign the Treaty which recognises
those who have been uniquely impacted by nuclear weapons. This includes
British soldiers who were exposed to testing of nuclear weapons between
1956 and 1958 when thousands of British servicemen were flown to Christmas
Island for Operation Grapple Y, the testing of Britain's first hydrogen bomb.
The only protection for these British soldiers was being told to turn away and
cover their eyes. Grapple was 100 times more powerful than the blast which
levelled Hiroshima. The lives of those British soldiers were changed forever.
Some died early, others experienced decades of illness, their wives reported
three times the rate of miscarriages, their children showed 10 times the
number of birth defects.
Soldiers have not been the only people tested upon, in
South Australia the UK
carried out 12 major nuclear tests, and hundreds of smaller ones. Although
the testing was shrouded in secrecy, oral history of the Aboriginal people
remembers the day the ground shook and the suffocating black mist rolled
in. One Aboriginal elder Yami Lester, who was blinded by nuclear fallout,
reported: "People in the community had skin infections, rashes, people were
violently vomiting. The nuclear tests would happen in the morning and by
the evening, people were already sick".
The testing of nuclear weapons on indigenous people has been extensive, from
1947 to 1996, the Pacific underwent 315 nuclear tests and it
was indigenous people who felt the brunt of the fallout.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons endorses reparations for
all people impacted, both for service personnel and indigenous people, as
well as supporting environmental remediation. Like the Treaty, our motion
attempts to recognise and fairly address all people impacted by nuclear
weapons and the impacts of war in general. Whatever side you are on, it is
always ordinary people who experience the brunt, and therefore it should be
ordinary people who are prioritised.
In 1983, in a well publicised incident, a quick-thinking Soviet colonel
deliberately ignored an early warning system triggered by the sun reflecting off
a bank of cloud. Millions could have been killed, and the whole world infected
by nuclear fallout.
And it is a little publicised fact that nuclear warheads in this country regularly
travel up and down our public motorways in a convoy from Aldermaston in
Berkshire to Faslane in Scotland. It is chilling to think that there is more chance
of a nuclear incident occurring in an accident on a motorway, or being the
target by a domestic terrorist attack, than a rogue state such as North Korea
launching a nuclear attack on our shores.
But what if nuclear war did ever break out? Nine nations retain just under
15,000 thermo-nuclear weapons, many of which are thousands of times more
powerful than the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in
1945. Scientists have warned that a nuclear exchange of even 1% of the
collective arsenal would have catastrophic effect, immediately killing hundreds
of thousands of people.
The 'deterrent' argument for keeping nuclear weapons - 'mutually assured
destruction' is just MAD.