The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has responded to the damning report of the Commons Defence Committee into the Strategic Defence and Security Review. CND said the report showed Ministers were living in a fantasy land, squandering vast sums on ‘trophy’ systems like nuclear weapons whilst risking basic capabilities “falling below the minimum utility required”.
Most shockingly, the report reveals the MoD have massively increased their estimate of the ‘gap’ in the defence budget. In the Defence Review last October, the difference between the estimated cost of the defence programme and the budget available was said to be £38bn. In as yet unpublished evidence to MPs, the MoD now says the gap is “substantially in excess of £38 billion”, with a suggestion their new figure may be upwards of £51.5bn.
CND believes that the £8bn estimate included in this figure for the next ten years of spending on the Trident replacement programme to be hugely conservative, especially given recent increases in the estimated cost of the equivalent US vessels. The predicted cost of building the US’s first new Trident submarine has increased from $9bn to $11.6bn in the last year.
Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said “This report shows that the long history of fantasy policy-making is alive and well at the MoD. Whilst planning for the multi-billion pound Trident replacement programme was well under way, according to written evidence from the MoD, “no part of Government had assumed they would pay [for it]”. When the most adaptable assets held by the military – troops which can be deployed for humanitarian work, peacekeeping or other tasks – are being disposed of by the thousand, it is perverse to be squandering billions on nuclear weapons which face no enemy and have no purpose.
“The Committee say the SDSR ‘has to all intent and purpose been re-opened’. As the latest figures show the unfunded black hole in the MoD budget is now a third higher than was thought just last year, now is the time for a formal review of the need for Trident and its replacement. If only the MoD would live in the real world, the billions unlocked by its cancellation could leave Britain better defended against threats that actually exist. As it stands, huge spending on a useless ‘trophy system’ is only likely to throw the defence budget further in to crisis. It is already acknowledged that it will cost significantly more than first expected – it seems the sky’s the limit with nuclear weapons spending.”