23 January 2007: for immediate release
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today welcomed the announcement by the US nuclear weapons scientist – and co-designer of the hydrogen bomb – Professor Richard Garwin, that no decision on the replacement of Trident is currently necessary. He believes the life of the Vanguard-class submarines can be extended by a further 15 years, as is the case with the US submarines. Professor Garwin today gave evidence to the Defence Committee’s Third Inquiry into Trident Replacement.
A growing number of MPs are questioning the government’s sudden urgency and lack of consultation on this matter, with 93 MPs having now signed Early Day Motion 579 (1), including some 58 Labour MPs.
Questions over the timing of the decision have already been raised, with campaigners asking why any replacement should take so long to deploy. Launching the White Paper, the Prime Minister argued that the Ministry of Defence needed seventeen years to design, build and deploy a replacement submarine system. Yet the White Paper itself stated ‘the design of the new SSBNs will maximize the degree of commonality with other in-service submarines’ raising serious questions over the need for such a precipitate decision.
In its submission to the Second Defence Committee Inquiry, BAE Systems wrote that in order to sustain the required capability and skills they require the construction of a nuclear powered submarine every 22 months (2). Professor Garwin’s testimony today suggests that BAE’s so-called ‘minimum necessary drumbeat’ of 22 months may in fact be driving the government’s speedy decision on Trident replacement.
Kate Hudson, Chair of CND, said, ‘We strongly encourage MPs to question the urgency of the government’s decision. Any decision made now will commit the UK to possessing nuclear weapons for many decades to come. It is increasingly apparent that such a rushed decision-making process, riding roughshod over demands for a full consultation, are part of a political project rather than any real technical or security needs. And the possibility that decisions of this nature may be made on the basis of the commercial requirements of BAE is utterly reprehensible.’
Notes to Editor:
1. The full text of EDM 579 reads: ‘That this House notes the Prime Minister’s statement in the House of 28th June 2006 that the White Paper The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent would be accompanied by an announcement on the means of consultation for the fullest possible debate; is concerned that there has been no provision made for public consultation; believes that a period of three months is insufficient for a discussion on a decision of this magnitude; and calls on the Government to extend the period of consultation to enable all political parties and other organisations with a legitimate interest to undertake full discussion and consultation which will enable them to present their views and make representations to hon. Members before a debate and vote.’
2. From the Defence Select Committee’s report on their second inquiry, item 58. Click here for the full report.
3. For further information and interviews please contact Rick Wayman, CND’s Press & Communications Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859
4. An ICM poll from June 2006 showed that 81% of the British public believes that any decision on Trident replacement should be made by Parliament, not the Prime Minister alone.
5. According to a July 2006 ICM poll, 59% of the British public opposes a replacement of Trident when presented with a cost of at least £25 billion.
6. 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.