CND has branded the UK government’s Autumn Statement “a missed opportunity” that will have serious consequences for millions of people, as chancellor Jeremy Hunt reaffirmed the government’s commitment to building Sizewell C and raised the prospect of increased military spending in the new year.
Looking to plug a £50 billion hole in the public finances, Hunt unveiled a host of spending cuts and tax rises. However, he did commit to going ahead with the Sizewell C nuclear plant in Suffolk – which could cost in the region of £20-30 billion – without any details on how the project would be funded.
Hunt added that contracts on building Sizewell C would be signed within “the coming weeks” with partners in the French-owned nuclear firm EDF. It was previously announced that EDF would be given funding to build Sizewell C through a levy on energy consumers’ bills, meaning the firm is getting paid by consumers long before it starts generating electricity. All the arguments continue to stack up against nuclear power, with renewables much cheaper and quicker to bring on line – as well as being genuinely clean and without the massive toxic waste legacy brought by nuclear energy production.
On defence, the previous Truss government had committed to increase military spending to 3 percent of GDP – adding another £157 billion to the current bill. The need to increase this spending was so great, claimed Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, that he initially threatened to quit if the request wasn’t granted – before rolling back on the threat.
In today’s statement, Hunt maintained the current level of 2 percent of GDP on military spending – with the possibility of an increase as part of the forthcoming update of the Integrated Review. In response, CND backs putting pressure on the government to prioritise investment in our communities rather than a surge in military spending in the new year.
CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said: “Rightly predicting how angry the public would be to see higher taxes fund a further splurge in military spending, the government has put off announcing any military budget increase. If the chancellor wants to make efficient savings to fund public services and grow the economy, he needs to look no further than the MoD – where hundreds of billions of pounds have been wasted on everything from new nuclear weapons to fighter jets and aircraft carriers. This Autumn Statement was a missed opportunity to reset economic priorities in the interests of all our communities.”