Ministry of Defence documents obtained by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament reveal the Government plans to replace Britain’s nuclear warheads, despite Ministers repeatedly telling MPs that no decision would be taken until the next Parliament. The shocking revelation came to light in a speech to the arms industry executives by David Gould, then chief operating officer at the Defence Equipment and Support Organisation, now released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Whilst the Commons voted last year to replace the submarines that carry the UK’s nuclear warheads on Trident missiles, the White Paper and repeated ministerial statements since then have claimed that no decision would be taken on replacing the explosive warheads themselves until the next Parliament, expected to be 2010 at the earliest. Today’s revelation that a senior defence official has been privately telling industry the opposite, suggests that Parliament has been misled.
Speaking to what the MoD documents describe as “200 very senior representative of industry”, the second-in-command of Britain’s defence procurement said “The intention is to replace the entire Vanguard Class submarine system. Including the warhead and missile.” The final sentence was initially censored by MoD staff who claimed that it was potentially misleading as it should have said ‘as set out in the 2006 White Paper’, but was subsequently un-censored on appeal after this was concluded to be insufficient grounds for censoring it. As the White Paper sets out the reverse of the position articulated in the speech, the MoD excuse is not credible.
Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: “This document destroys any remaining credibility in the Government’s claim that it has not yet made a decision on new nuclear warheads. Staffing at the Atomic Weapons Establishment has grown by a third in the last five years, with billions spent on new facilities, yet throughout this the Government has been telling MPs and the public that it would be years before any decision was needed. It is a disgrace that the MoD is secretly telling the defence industry one thing, whilst Ministers are saying quite the opposite to Parliament.”
She continued, “The explosive warheads are the destructive core of the UK’s nuclear weapons system. But they are also at the political core of the issue. Building newer, potentially more advanced warheads will breach our commitment to disarm under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and will send out a destabilising and hypocritical message to other states, both with and currently without such weapons. A decision to go ahead with new warheads will have a much greater impact than the plan for new submarines, which merely provide the launch platform for these terrible weapons.”
The Atomic Weapons Establishment has seen huge investment over recent years, with staffing growing by a third and capital costs going from £24m in 2000/1 to £420 in 2007/8. In the next three years £1750m is budgeted for investment there, the vast majority coming from the MoD main budget. Full details and references to these available on request.
Notes to Editors:For further information and interviews please contact Ben Soffa, CND’s Press Officer, on 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.
Documents below – un-redacted version, the original redacted version released and explanatory notes. All released to John Ainslie, Coordinator of Scottish CND.