Powerful figures from across British public life have today called upon the government to halt the replacement of Trident and re-deploy resources to ‘socially useful spending’ in the Pre-Budget Report.

The new independent Rethink Trident campaign coalition of the consciences includes celebrities, scientists, academics, former members of the military, writers and politicians from across the political spectrum, as well as several high-profile organisations such as Compass, CND, Greenpeace, People & Planet, UNISON and War on Want.

High-profile signatories fronting the campaign include: Air Commodore Alistair Mackie; leading politicians Caroline Lucas MEP, Jon Cruddas MP, Adam Price MP, Steve Webb MP; former members of the MoD ministerial team Peter Kilfoyle MP and Eric Joyce MP; former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone; architect Lord Richard Rogers; actors Prunella Scales and Tony Robinson; musicians Damon Albarn and Thom Yorke; comedian Mark Steel, and religious leaders the Bishop of Reading and Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

The publication of today’s statement officially re-launches the Rethink Trident campaign which was first coordinated in 2007 to encourage further public and parliamentary debate around the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system.

The new statement is intended to pile pressure on the government to announce clear plans in the PBR to immediately cancel the replacement of Trident and to coincide with next year’s nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May 2010.

Since 2007 the debate around nuclear weapons has changed dramatically here in Britain and abroad. Latest polling in September 2009  showed that 58% oppose the government’s plans to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system at a time when the recession has led to talk of cuts in almost every area of public spending.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said “”Replacing Trident will do nothing to defend Britain over the coming decades. Instead it will squander billions that could tackle the real drivers of insecurity like climate change. Building a new version of this Cold War white elephant will make it harder to achieve the goal of a nuclear-free world being pursued by Presidents Obama and Medvedev. It will only encourage further countries to claim they need nuclear weapons as a ‘deterrent’. At a time of recession, the Government must show real global leadership by scrapping Trident. The billions saved must be redeployed to socially useful spending.”

Gavin Hayes, General Secretary of Compass, said: “Renewing Trident is clearly now more wasteful than ever – it is madness to renew when it has no strategic value and in times of economic crisis. Jobs and services versus a redundant weapons system is now a no-brainer. The public won’t forgive a government or an opposition that waste so much public money in times of hardship”.

Given that public spending is tighter than two years ago we feel that the time is right to reconvene our coalition and strengthen our statement on Trident replacement.

The statement reads:

“With Britain facing its biggest economic crisis since the Second World War and much debate on public spending levels and priorities, the country can ill-afford to be spending in excess of £76bn on replacing Trident with a new generation of nuclear weapons.

Britain’s security needs are not met by nuclear weapons which can do nothing to combat the threats posed by global terrorism or climate change. The more that countries such as Britain justify their retention and replacement of nuclear weapons on the grounds of an uncertain future, the more likely it is that non-nuclear states will seek to use the same rationale to justify developing their own weapons systems.

Instead of wasting tens of billions of pounds on new nuclear weapons there are many forms of socially useful spending to which the funds could be put; combating child poverty and youth unemployment, providing affordable homes, investing in education and mental and physical healthcare as well as addressing the climate crisis, to name a few. Whilst some are considering cuts to these areas, it is instead Trident that should be cut in their place.

We believe the Government should cancel the replacement of Trident. This would allow for the existing skilled manufacturing base to be re-orientated towards providing for the needs of a post-carbon future, with the potential for significant investment in green jobs. The Government must be a leading participant in current global initiatives to significantly reduce holdings of nuclear weapons, with the aim of achieving a nuclear-free world. Cancelling the programme to replace Trident would have a transformative effect on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May 2010, greatly boosting the chances of agreeing a timetable for multilateral global disarmament.”

– ends –

For further information and interviews please contact  Ben Soffa, CND’s Press Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere.