In a swift reaction to dramatic events in parliament today, leaders from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church have expressed deep concern over the vote to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system.
After six hours of debate, 409 MPs supported the proposals, and 161 were against - a majority of 248, reports the BBC. Earlier 413 MPs had rejected a bid to delay the decision, with 95 Labour rebels among 167 MPs wanting a delay.
There were 16 former ministers, including four ex-Cabinet members among those opposing Prime Minister Tony Blair's nuclear policy. On the government's motion to proceed with renewal there were 88 Labour rebels.
Estimates suggest that between £25billion and £21 billion would be spent on new submarines to carry the Trident missiles. The fleet would take 17 years to develop and build, and would then last until about 2050. Some opponents say that the ultimate cost could be in excess of £25 billion.
Anthea Cox, Coordinating Secretary for Public Life and Social Justice for the Methodist Church in Great Britain, said: “This [vote] seriously undermines the UK’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and the extent of the backbench rebellion demonstrates that many feel passionately that the Government has got this decision wrong."
She continued: "The Government promised a full public debate but instead this early vote in the House of Commons has rushed the discussion while crucial questions remain unanswered."
Graham Sparkes, Head of Faith and Unity for the Baptist Union, added: “The use of nuclear weapons is unthinkable. Rather than invest a vast amount of public money in a system that it can never be right to use, the Government ought to be making clear commitments to peacemaking. Trident can never provide the UK with any real security.”
And Stuart Dew, Secretary for Church and Society, the United Reformed Church commented: “We are deeply disappointed at the call to renew Trident. The government has ignored the global demand to rid the world of nuclear weapons, claiming that it is acceptable for some states to hold them while for others it is not. This is a commitment to injustice over peace.”
Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams also signed an anti-Trident petition. But although its Synod voted against, there are differences in the established Church of England - with the Bishop of Rochester and others defending the possession of nuclear arms. The Catholic Bishops in England & Wales and Scotland have been overwhelming in their opposition
The three Free Churches made a joint submission to the Commons Defence Committee, arguing that the Government has not fully addressed the security risks associated with a renewal of Trident.
They state that it is vital to control the proliferation of weapons technology and they raise concerns over the Government’s claim that Trident might provide protection
against state-sponsored nuclear terrorism.
Representatives from the churches as well as many ordinary Christians and people of other faith and none were present at the rally in Parliament Square, organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).