4 December 2006: for immediate release
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today condemned the government’s decision to replace Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system. Tony Blair, in his statement to parliament, made it clear that Britain would be pursuing a new submarine system, and signing up to the US’s service life extension programme for the Trident D5 missiles which carry the war heads on the submarines. During his statement the prime minister suggested that the number of submarines be reduced from four to three, but he appeared to pull back from this during questioning from David Cameron.
This decision flies in the face of public opinion. A recent ICM poll shows that 59% of Britons oppose a replacement for Trident (see note 2). In September the TUC Congress voted overwhelmingly to oppose a Trident replacement; major faith communities have spoken out against it; and numerous civil society organisations have expressed their opposition.
The Prime Minister also urged parliament to ‘focus on the decision itself, not the process.’ This is not surprising, given the fact that the process pursued to date has been highly contentious. We were promised a full public and parliamentary debate last year by John Reid, but neither has been facilitated by the government. The announcement of a three month period of consultation, followed by a parliamentary debate and vote, has been greeted with scepticism, given that the decision has already been made.
Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, ‘We have been promised a consultation, parliamentary debate and vote on this issue. It is incumbent on the government now urgently to outline a process for public consultation and explain how this will feed into the decision-making process. Without such a process, the White Paper is merely the pre-determined outcome favoured by Mr Blair.’
‘To pursue another generation of nuclear weapons, without sufficient consultation and consideration of all the options, is irresponsible in the extreme. This decision will promote proliferation and a new nuclear arms race which will ultimately lead to nuclear weapons use. The British people in its majority oppose this step. They must be allowed to have their input into this crucial decision.’
Mr Blair also spoke of the government’s support for multilateral nuclear disarmament, but initiatives to this end, by our government, are not in evidence. CND’s Alternative White Paper (see note 3), presented to Downing Street earlier today, recommends the government to pursue Hans Blix’s proposal of a World Summit on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and to support the draft Nuclear Weapons Convention, lodged at the UN, which would ban nuclear weapons.
Answering the argument that we cannot be certain of what threats we will face in 20-30 years’ time, Ms Hudson said, ‘We currently face no nuclear superpower threat. We must take this window of opportunity to begin multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament. While we can never be absolutely certain about future threats, we can be certain that if we build a new generation of nuclear weapons more countries will seek to join the nuclear club and we will one day find ourselves in a nuclear-use situation.’
Notes to Editor:
1. For further information and interviews please contact Rick Wayman, CND’s Press & Communications Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859
2. 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. Click here for a full copy of the poll.
3 . 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. Click here for a full copy of the poll.
4 . The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 32,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere.