Austerity government finds more millions for weapons of mass destruction
29 October 2012
The decision about whether to renew the UK’s Trident weapons system isn’t due until 2016.
But that didn’t stop Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announcing today that the Government is to splash out another £350m of public money on design work for the 'future generation’ of nuclear submarines.
Pre-emptive spending on the ‘nuclear deterrent’ is gathering pace, with £350m of design work announced earlier this year and at least £2bn already being spent on making enriched uranium components, high explosives and warheads at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire.
So while schools, hospitals, police forces and other services across the country are facing savage cuts, BAE Systems and Babcock are being handed taxpayers’ money for a vast defence project that hasn’t even been signed off yet – and one which many believe is outdated, discredited and incapable of addressing modern security challenges.
That Parliament has been largely prevented from scrutinising decisions on one of the most incendiary issues in British politics is appalling.
In an article for PoliticsHome almost a year ago, I highlighted the culture of secrecy at the MoD which allows spending decisions like these to be taken behind closed doors and called for far more transparency. Today’s announcement shows that nothing has changed.
There is still a huge public debate to be had about replacing Trident. The economic and moral questions are clear.
With the total cost of replacement – including warheads, missiles, submarines and lifetime costs – likely to come in at an eye watering £100 billion over the next 30 years, can the UK afford such an extravagance?
Is a Cold War deterrent really the right solution for our defence needs in the 21st century?
And what message would replacing Trident send out to the rest of the world about our country’s commitment to nuclear disarmament?