The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today expressed grave concern about the likely spiralling costs of the Trident replacement programme, and condemned the exclusion of parliament from the decision-making process.
Major concerns were exposed as the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee met today to hear evidence on the ‘Renewal of the nuclear deterrent’. This follows the publication of a National Audit Office Report on the costs and progress of the Trident Replacement programme on 5th November. The Committee put questions to Ministry of Defence officials responsible for the Trident replacement programme.
Asked by PAC Chair Edward Leigh about the costs of the replacement submarines, Sir Bill Jeffrey, Permanent Under Secretary of State, replied that the figures given in the government’s White Paper of December 2006 were ‘ball-park estimate costs’, and that the White Paper itself had been ‘essential in terms of public confidence’. Sir Bill said that there would be ‘no guarantees’ given on costs.
The PAC expressed concerns about the record of the MoD and manufacturers, pointing to the fact that the programme was already six weeks behind schedule, that the Astute class submarine programme, currently being built at Barrow, is 4 years late and 47.3% more expensive than budgeted.
The PAC also drew attention to the fact that the Initial Gate report on the first phase of the submarine replacement programme – currently planned for September 2009 – would fall during the Parliamentary recess. Committee member Ian Davidson MP asked how parliament would be able to approve the Initial Gate report under those circumstances, to which Sir Bill responded that a report might be made after the recess with ‘decisions made by ministers’. This procedure would be contrary to the government’s commitment in March 2007 to give the House of Commons further opportunities to review Trident replacement.
CND Chair Kate Hudson said: ‘This PAC inquiry has exposed the realities of the Trident replacement process. Two years ago the lifetime costs of the replacement were estimated to be £76 billion. Today we hear that no guarantees can be given on costs, and that we were spun a line in the White Paper to inspire confidence. Given the record of the MoD on other projects the likelihood is that the British taxpayer will be picking up a massively inflated bill for weapons of mass destruction that the majority does not want.’
‘The lack of democracy is a disgrace. Parliament appears now to be cut out of the decision-making process and government promises made during the Parliamentary debate last year are revealed as a sham. To slip another controversial decision past our elected representatives during a recess makes a mockery of parliamentary democracy. We will work to expose and rectify this abuse in the months ahead.’
Notes to Editors:For further information and interviews please contact Ben Soffa, CND’s Press Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere.