The UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) welcomes a detailed ICAN report that outlines vast increases in spending on nuclear weapons programmes by the existing nuclear weapon states. The report calculates that the UK Government spent effectively £8300 a minute throughout 2020 on the Trident nuclear weapons programme. This is at a time when local government budgets were decimated by their additional work on the Covid-19 pandemic, following on from a decade of deep austerity which has seen around 30 – 40% of local government finance taken off many councils by central government.
The report by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), of which NFLA are a member of, calculates that the nine nuclear armed countries spent $72.6 billion (£51.3 billion) on their nuclear weapons. This was at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic spread and a global treaty banning nuclear weapons took full effect. The report “Complicit: 2020 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending” details the spending of these nine countries on their arsenals, the companies that profited, and the lobbyists hired to keep nuclear weapons in business. (1)
The global spending amounts to £97,422 every minute, and (after adjusting for inflation) represents an increase of £1 billion from last year. The report estimates £4.38 billion was spent on new defence systems in 2020, around £1 billion of which was spent on nuclear weapons alone by the US, Russia, China, France and the UK. (1) The report also outlines the UK as the fourth biggest military spender behind the US, China and Russia.
The analysis by ICAN suggests that UK spending on Trident and its replacement programme is equivalent to $11,769 (£8,300) per minute. This estimate is based on reports from the National Audit Office, the Ministry of Defence and other research bodies.
As CND Scotland have noted, the UK is one of the least transparent nuclear armed states about its defence expenditure and the technical difficulties it faces in upgrading and replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system. (2)
NFLA is astonished at this huge increase in defence expenditure during the worst global public health emergency that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about. Local government budgets have been hammered in the same period as they have had to spend more to help the most vulnerable, and yet again, budgets have had to be slashed by many councils again in 2021. This follows on from a decade of the deepest austerity in the history of local government in the UK.
The ICAN report concludes: “After digging through thousands of contracts, annual reports and lobby disclosures, the report shows a dozen companies got $27.7 billion (£19.6 billion) in new and modified contracts to work on nuclear weapons. Those companies then turned around and spent $117 million (£82.8 billion) lobbying decision makers to spend more money on defence. And they also spent upwards of $10 million (£7 million) funding most of the major think tanks that research and write about policy solutions about nuclear weapons. It is time to expose this shady cycle and end this outrageous waste of public funds on weapons of mass destruction. Help us spread the word.”
This report comes prior to a major first board meeting of the European Chapter of Mayors for Peace, which takes place on Thursday 10th June. The European Chapter has been established by European Lead Members of Mayors for Peace to move forward with a deeper debate on nuclear weapons and security in Europe, whilst providing more support to members to develop safer, resilient and more peaceful towns, cities, counties and regions.
As the host of the NFLA and a Vice President of Mayors for Peace and its new European Chapter, the Lord Mayor of Manchester and a fellow nominated councillor of Manchester City Council will attend this important meeting. The European Chapter works closely with ICAN and is planning a further webinar later this year in preparation for the first States Parties Conference of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
This ICAN report shows that nuclear weapons remain a clear and present danger to all the people in the continent of Europe and around the world. The need for cooperation to challenge this dangerous status quo amongst the nuclear weapons states is more important than ever.
NFLA Steering Committee Chair Councillor David Blackburn said:
“I applaud this detailed, forensic report from ICAN which highlights the vast resources that are still spent on a weapon the nine states who have them say they never want to use. With public service budgets decimated, and the vast majority of councils in the UK having to make deeper cuts than ever before, NFLA has to assert that the UK Government has got its priorities wrong. Governments should stop spending money on weapons that could completely destroy large towns and cities, and divert these resources to provide the vaccines for all the countries of the world, the finance to mitigate climate change, the overseas aid to protect the most vulnerable and the urgent measures to reduce the large inequality that exists in our world. We stand shoulder to shoulder with ICAN and Mayors for Peace for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.”
Manchester City Council’s permanent Mayors for Peace and NFLA representative Councillor Eddy Newman added:
“This report is another reason why there remains a real urgency in promoting a more peaceful world free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. I welcome the moves that European lead cities of Mayors for Peace have made to develop a European Chapter. The Chapter will help focus activity on European peace and security given that nuclear weapons have dominated the continent’s discourse since the 1950s. After 18 months of a global pandemic, governments should be focusing on helping the most vulnerable than on creating ever more destructive weapons. Cooperation rather than confrontation is absolutely essential in our world.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 07771 930196.
Notes to Editors:
(1) ICAN, ‘Complicit: 2020 nuclear weapons spending’, 7th June 2021
(2) The National, 7th June 2021