The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament welcomed today’s Guardian/ICM poll showing that a majority of Britons, 54%, want the country to rid itself of nuclear weapons . Only 42% favour the replacement of Trident with a new generation of nuclear weapons. Significantly, the results were achieved from a question that did not mention the potential costs of the system, suggesting the growing acceptance that the UK does not need nuclear weapons goes beyond objection to the costs of any one development.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said “Public opinion has decisively shifted towards opposing the UK’s retention of nuclear weapons – now we need politicians to catch up. The majority who want Britain to go nuke-free will not tolerate parties who plan to squander £76bn on replacing Trident. But the flip-side is also true: those offering a defence policy relevant to the real threats of the future and who will redirect the billions planned for Trident into more useful programmes will reap the rewards at the ballot box. The results also show that people are rejecting the need for such city-destroying weapons entirely – plans for ‘Trident-lite’ or cheaper, less capable nuclear weapons systems will not be a draw to these voters. To ignore such a major shift in British public opinion is foolhardy. It smacks of a head-in-the-sand approach – an unwillingness to recognise that things change, and that policies have to change too.

“The question of whether to commit billions to new nuclear weapons is also an urgent one – the onus is now on the government to explain why it intends to push ahead with the next stage of Trident replacement in September during parliamentary recess without any debate or scrutiny from MPs. The Foreign Affairs Committee and 160 MPs have called for just such a debate yet the Government seems to want to carry on as though nothing has changed – no recession, no Obama disarmament drive, no shift in public opinion. This has to change before they commit another £2bn to Trident in the next few months.

“The poll also highlights the need for the upcoming Defence Review to give full consideration to cancelling Britain’s ruinously expensive nuclear programme. It is ludicrous that the MoD have defined Trident as a “sacred cow” exempt from review, when culling this white elephant would end its huge distortion of defence spending and allow a focus on more immediate life-saving priorities. With President Obama acknowledging that disarmament by established nuclear powers is the best way to combat the spread of these terrible weapons, the urgent necessity for nuclear disarmament is staring us in the face. Most people have recognised that. The truly shocking fact is that our government – ostrich-like – won’t even enter into a discussion on the subject.”

– ends –

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.

Parliament was promised in 2007 that they would have ample time for discussion of the new proposals for updating Trident and yet decisions will be taken behind closed doors during the Parliamentary recess this summer. EDM 660, signed by 160 MPs states that taking the ‘initial gate’ decision during the recess “undermines the commitment made to Parliament by the Foreign Secretary in March 2007; and requests that the Initial Gate decision be delayed until Parliament is in session and can be presented with the report for scrutiny.”

House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report ‘Global Security: Non-Proliferation’ of 3rd June 2009 concludes “We recommend that the Government should not take any decision at the Initial Gate stage until Parliament has had the chance to scrutinise the matter in a debate.”

September ‘initial gate’ decision may release upwards of £2bn: Evidence presented to the Commons Defence Select Committee by Michael Codner (Director of Military Sciences, Royal United Services Institute) suggests that up to 15% of the capital costs of the programme to build new Trident replacement submarines would be released by the ‘initial gate’ decision, with the remaining 85% falling after the ‘main gate’ in 2012-2014. Government estimates for the cost of the new submarines are £11-14bn, meaning the decision this September would commit up to £2.1bn. Evidence from the UK’s ongoing Astute submarine programme suggests (currently 48% over budget) suggests costs will be significantly higher, perhaps in the region of £25bn.