The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) has slammed the UK Government for signing a £37 million contract for Trident missile launchers – more than a year ahead of a Parliamentary vote on whether or not to replace the nuclear weapons system.

The deal will see US firm General Dynamics build 12 Trident missile launch tubes for a ‘successor’ submarine which is yet to be authorised by Parliament. Worse still, the UK Government has consistently said that it is reducing the number of missiles on the nuclear-armed submarines from 12 to eight, prompting accusations that the Government has misled Parliament, the public and even the UN.

In its 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Government stated ‘we will reduce the number of operational launch tubes on the submarines from 12 to eight’, with Britain’s disarmament ambassador telling the UN that the UK would ‘configure the next generation of submarines accordingly with only eight operational missile tubes.’

CND’s General Secretary Kate Hudson said:

‘We now have a £37m contract which the Government didn’t tell us about, placed without Parliamentary authorisation, for nuclear-missile tubes the Government told us wouldn’t exist.

‘However you cut it this is pre-empting a Parliamentary decision on Trident replacement: a £100bn decision on a Cold War weapons system which many senior military figures say is absolutely useless. The preliminary vote on Trident replacement in 2007 was the biggest backbench rebellion on a defence issue since 1924: this is by no means a done deal, and for the Government to act as if it’s signed and sealed is an affront to democracy.

‘The Government must now explain whether it has misled the public and the international community over the reduction in capacity of the UK’s nuclear-armed submarines, or whether it’s just squandered public money on missile tubes which will remain empty. Those really are the only two options: grand deception or gross ineptitude.’