The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today (18 Jan 2011) called for the government to "come clean" on spending plans when it releases the long-delayed 'Initial Gate' report into the Trident replacement programme, expected to be published next month. Recent disclosures have revealed that the MoD currently plans to order a substantial part of the first submarine, as well as nuclear reactors for three submarines, prior to the main decision on whether to go ahead with the system in 2016. CND has warned this risks repeating the aircraft carrier fiasco where billions are committed to projects that are then deemed unnecessary.
Based on the £334 million cost of the items that take the longest to build (mainly the reactor) for the sixth of the smaller Astute-class boats, pre-ordering the reactors for the first three new Trident submarines would commit over £1 billion to the project for these items alone.
It is also planned that substantial elements of the first submarine will be under construction ahead of the 2016 'Main Gate' decision, including elements of the hull, the propulsion systems, power plant, electrical, combat and life support systems
Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said "The Ministry of Defence plans - only revealed due to a Freedom of Information request - show the process that locked us into buying an unwanted aircraft carrier looks set to be repeated with Trident submarines. Ordering billions of pounds-worth of equipment ahead of a final decision has been rightly criticised by the Coalition Government but these plans could make the waste on the aircraft carrier seem like small change. The Government must come clean on what it plans to spend and when it plans to commit to it. With drastic cuts across government departments, profligate spending in defence will not be forgiven by the public.
"Committing to significant spending ahead of the 2015 General Election and before the 2016 decision on whether to replace Trident is hardly representative of the 'new politics' promised by the Coalition. This smacks of getting Trident replacement in through the back door, bypassing proper political processes and making a mockery of any notion of accountability.
"If the Liberal Democrat pledge, made after the timetable was delayed last October, that "Trident will not be renewed this parliament - not on a Liberal Democrat watch" is to be meaningfully kept, it needs their Ministers to ensure that these multi-million pound orders are not placed ahead of the next election.
"It is vital that the government commits to an honest debate and accountable process about the timetable, decision making, cost and scope of the contracts for Trident replacement. Above all it must provide for a fundamental reappraisal - involving parliamentarians and public - of whether a Cold War nuclear weapons system is necessary for the defence of Britain in the 21st century."