The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today welcomed the Government's announcement of a review of defence priorities but warned that "without taking decisions on mega-projects like Trident, the review will just be avoiding the huge white elephant in the room". CND will be pressing the Government to ensure that calls for Trident replacement to be scrapped - which have recently come from across the political spectrum and from the upper echelons of the armed forces - are fully examined in the review.
Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: "We welcome this review - British defence policy is still mired in Cold War thinking. But this report will be meaningless if it fails to examine the biggest imminent decision in defence policy - that of the £76bn Trident replacement programme. With Gordon Brown set to release billions for the design of new submarines during the Parliamentary recess this September, the need for a review is urgent. But if it does not take decisions on mega-projects like Trident, the review will just be avoiding the huge white elephant in the room. Given the severe economic hardship the country is facing, even those who were once the strongest defenders of nuclear weapons are now questioning whether such expenditure can be justified on a system which senior armed-forces figures have described as 'militarily useless'.
"Scrapping Trident replacement would also boost efforts to combat the spread of nuclear weapons. As President Obama said only yesterday, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons 'starts with the reduction of our own nuclear arsenal' noting that established nuclear powers 'must lead by example'. Britain has an excellent opportunity to seize the moral leadership in this sphere by scrapping Trident replacement and leading other countries into the multilateral disarmament process.
"The defence review should include a full and open ended examination of the merits of scrapping Trident replacement - both in global political terms and the benefits from freeing up resources for other more relevant projects. Some are suggesting that like-for-like replacement is too expensive and that Britain can go for a cheaper option. But we urge the government to pursue full nuclear disarmament. Replacing Trident with other forms of nuclear weapons will not deal with the problems of global proliferation that we ourselves are contributing to by failing to disarm. Britain must contribute fully to President Obama's aim of a world free of nuclear weapons - this review presents an excellent opportunity to pursue this."
The MoD's current schedule will see ministers take a decision on the scope and capabilities of the replacement system (the 'Initial Gate') during the Parliamentary recess this September, when there is no possibility for scrutiny in the Commons. The decision is expected to commit upwards of £2.1bn to the programme. Over 160 MPs have now signed EDM 660 calling for a Parliamentary debate before this decision is taken to proceed to the next stage in the replacement process. The Foreign Affairs Committee also recommended a further Parliamentary debate in its recent report on global security and non-proliferation. To date, the government has refused to allow any debate to take place, even though the decision will come at a sensitive time, just before Labour Party conference.
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