The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today welcomed the Ministry of Defence’s admission that it may yet publish findings from the Trident Alternatives Review. The MoD also confirmed that spending commitments now totalling £6 billion will not be used to influence the parliamentary decision due on Trident replacement in 2016.
The Government has been under increasing pressure over its attempts to bury the Trident Alternatives Review. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond stated recently that there were ‘no plans’ to make the Lib Dem-led review into alternatives to Trident replacement public.
But Wednesday’s debate on Trident revealed a softening of the MoD’s position on the report. Junior Defence Minister Peter Luff stated that although the MoD would ‘not be able to publish the study itself’ on ‘national security’ grounds, ‘no decisions have yet been taken about what it might be possible to say’.
The Government has also faced fierce criticism over its commitment to spend a total of £6bn on both the submarines, prior to the construction decision in 2016, and on nuclear weapons facilities at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Aldermaston. Peter Luff claimed, however, that ‘nothing that we are doing will prevent us from being able to make the right decision in 2016.’
CND General Secretary, Kate Hudson, said:
‘These are small but significant developments for all of us worried about a lack of transparency and accountability over Trident replacement. Concerns have been expressed that so much money will have been spent up front that we will be presented with a fait accompli in 2016 – that we will have to go ahead because of the money already spent. But now Peter Luff has quite categorically reassured us that will not be the case. We welcome that.
‘We also welcome the possibility – confirmed by the Minister – that some of the findings of the Trident Alternatives Review may be made public. Following concern that debate will be suppressed, it is good to know that the Government is responsive to public feedback. Given that this is our money being spent and our security that is being put at risk by government plans to replace Trident, we will continue to work for a full and transparent review of Britain’s nuclear weapons possession’.
Pressure from a cross-party range of MPs has also mounted, with Caroline Lucas (Green) describing the cost of replacing Trident as ‘eye-watering’, while Liberal Democrat MP Tessa Munt called it a ‘ludicrous waste of money’. Jeremy Corbyn MP (Labour) warned that the pressure must be maintained if the public want to avoid ‘sleepwalking’ into ‘massive levels of expenditure’.