The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) is disappointed with the Prime Minister’s decision to call a snap debate in Parliament on the proposed replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons programme on July 18th. Such a decision should be made carefully and with full consideration of all the issues involved. It should not be made for any narrow short-term party political benefit.
NFLA is one of 20 organisations supporting a lobby of MPs and a special Parliamentary meeting this Wednesday 13th July to ensure as many MPs as possible are more fully informed of the issues around replacing and upgrading the Trident system. (1)
MPs in all political parties have real misgivings about replacing Trident, and these need to be considered by the Government. Amongst the reasons they have are the following:
- Economic – the Conservative Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Crispin Blunt, has calculated (from October 2015 answers from the Ministry of Defence) that the whole life costs of Trident replacement will be as much as £167 billion, and account for 6% of the entire defence budget up to the 2060’s (2). A recent report from CND now calculates the whole life cost could be as much as £205 billion. (3) NFLA agrees with Crispin Blunt’s comment: “How much is too much? There has to be a point where this programme ceases to be value for money. I believe that this level of spending commitment is excessive as it will mean forgoing an effective conventional capability in order to maintain one weapons system that is unlikely ever to be used.”
- Security – a report by the international security think-tank the European Leadership Network has noted that Britain’s nuclear weapons can never be made completely safe from cyber attack, raising “serious questions about the longer-term efficacy of the UK nuclear deterrent”. The report notes that the reliance of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system on numerous computers, complex software and sophisticated coding means it “must be assumed to be vulnerable to interference in some way”. NFLA believes a decision on Trident replacement needs to urgently consider these matters in much greater detail before any final decision is made on it. (4)
- Moral and ethical – Nuclear weapons are weapons of mass destruction that are designed to kill millions of people. Scientific research has shown that even a limited nuclear attack could exacerbate climate change, seriously damage food security and would create long-term damage to our planet. NFLA shares these moral and ethical concerns around the possession of nuclear weapons with the groups, which include a number of faith organisations that are co-sponsoring Wednesday’s lobby of MPs and see nuclear weapons as an immoral weapon system.
NFLA notes and agrees with the recent non-partisan resolution of the US Conference of Mayors, which was unanimously supported, warning that “the nuclear-armed countries are edging ever closer to direct military confrontation in conflict zones around the world,” and calling on the next President of the United States “to pursue new diplomatic initiatives to lower tensions with Russia and China and to dramatically reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles.” (5)
The same is as true for the UK. As a NATO member, the UK Government has just decided to position British troops close to the Russian border. With terrorist organisations actively pursuing ways to acquire radioactive materials to construct improvised devices, our world is getting ever closer to a highly destructive conflict. The UK Government needs to actively live up to its stated policy of working with other governments ‘for a world free from nuclear weapons’. It is very disappointing that the UK Government has refuse to talk in recent multilateral disarmament talks at the United Nations and is now calling a premature vote on Trident replacement.
NFLA calls on MPs of all parties to carefully consider the arguments that will be raised in Wednesday’s lobby and next week’s debate, and search their conscience. This is not a narrow party political issue, but an issue of great moral, ethical, economic and security consequence. It is not just the British public looking at this decision, but the 149 states that have signed or supported the ‘humanitarian pledge’ to fill the legal gap behind a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. (6) Whatever the result next week, NFLA will continue to work with others for a nuclear weapons free world.
NFLA Chair Councillor Ernie Galsworthy said:
As Chair of the Nuclear Free Local Authorities I am aware of the call from all my predecessors over the past 36 years for a nuclear weapons free world. Such a call remains as urgent and pressing now as it has done in anytime since our formation in 1980. I call on MPs across the political spectrum to think very carefully and consider the important moral, ethical, economic and security issues around Trident replacement. This is not a party political matter, it is about whether it is right to continue to possess weapons of mass destruction or not.”
For more information contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 0161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) For a list of supporting organisations to the lobby of MPs, consult http://www.cnduk.org/about/item/2434-stop-trident-mass-lobby-of-parliament
(2) Crispin Blunt MP website, October 2015 http://www.blunt4reigate.com/news/figures-show-crippling-costs-renewing-Trident
(3) CND UK, ‘Trident and jobs – the employment implications of cancelling Trident replacement’, July 2016 http://www.cnduk.org/images/stories/Trident_and_Jobs_2016.pdf
(4) European Leadership Network, ‘Is Trident safe from cyber attack?’ February 2016 http://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/medialibrary/2016/02/04/d2106a19/ls%20Trident%20safe%20from%20cyber%20attack.pdf
(5) The Nation, ‘There Are 15,000 Nuclear Weapons Still Posing an Intolerable Threat to Humanity’ by Mayor Frank Cownie, July 8, 2016 https://www.thenation.com/article/there-are-15000-nuclear-weapons-still-posing-an-intolerable-threat-to-humanity/
(6) ICAN http://www.icanw.org/pledge