After Vince Cable’s extraordinary statement on Question Time last week, that Trident doesn’t cost us anything, I think it is worth setting the record straight. Currently the government spends over £2 billion a year on nuclear weapons. By 2013 that figure will rise to £3 billion a year. Given that the government’s first stated cuts goal when it came into office was to save £6 billion, it is hard to see how this level of spending could be described as nothing. This and other issues on ‘defence’ spending will be discussed at CND’s public meeting in parliament tonight – Monday 28th June, organised together with the Stop the War Coalition. See our website diary for full details.
The current amount is primarily to maintain the existing system but of course one has to add to that the cost of the replacement of the current system. That will add in excess of £76 billion to the bill. Like many others, I wouldn’t want nuclear weapons even if they were free – they provoke proliferation and make us less safe, doing nothing to meet the security challenges that we face. So scrapping the existing system and cancelling Trident replacement makes sense on every count.
Think of what the money could be spent on instead, and how many skilled sustainable jobs could be created. The current figures in employment in the nuclear weapons sector are around 11,000 on four sites. That is a cost of several million pounds per job. In employment terms, that is not a good return on investment. But a major programme of offshore wind and wave power could generate 50% of the UK’s energy needs, substantially reducing carbon emissions and enhancing security of supply. It would also create new industries generating 25-30,000 skilled jobs.
It is about time the government thought about the best ways of regenerating Britain’s economy, investing in growth and industries for the future, not obsessively clinging to the one area of public spending that actually would be a good cut.