A pro-nuclear former minister has urged the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to stick with his plans to renew the Trident nuclear weapons system. His comments are likely to fuel speculation that Brown is now doubting the policy.
In an interview with the Independent, the former Defence Secretary, John Hutton, said that Brown would be “daft” to abandon Trident and urged him to resist pressure from within the Labour Party to do so. The current cabinet is split over the issue, with some ministers regularly leaking their doubts to the media.
Hutton's decision to speak out on the issue now may lead some to conclude that Brown is thinking about reversing his policy in the light of economic circumstances.
Churches, faith groups, trades unions and NGOs have long criticised Trident, but criticism has grown since the onset of the recession. Recent research concluded that the cost of Trident renewal would be around £95billion, nearly five times the government's estimate.
John Hutton, well-known for his support for nuclear weapons and the arms trade, went so far as to criticise Brown's reduction in the number of Trident submarines from four to three. The move was seen as a concession to Trident's critics.
While suggesting that the UK should offer to cut its nuclear warheads as part of global deals next year, Hutton said that "my strong view is that we are a long way from a position of even thinking about giving up our independent nuclear deterrent."
Hutton is currently MP for Barrow-in-Furness, where new Trident submarines are likely to be built. However, he plans to stand down at the next election, to spend more time with his family and to write books on military history.