Billions to be spent on new Trident before MPs even asked to back plans

Billions to be spent on new Trident before MPs even asked to back plans

By agency reporter
31 Jan 2011

Responding to the Defence Secretary's confirmation to the Commons that parts of the proposed Trident replacement submarines will be purchased ahead of the 'main gate' decision point, CND has called on the government to live up to its own promises over openness and accountability.

Liam Fox told MPs "we would expect to purchase some long-lead items", though declined to give any details to the Commons, despite the fact that the MoD recently listed dozens of anticipated purchases in response to a Freedom of Information request.

Those answers revealed that the MoD plans to order a substantial part of the first submarine as well as nuclear reactors for three submarines (at an estimated cost of at least £1b prior to the main decision on whether to go ahead with the system being made in 2016.

When questioned whether this level of spending risked making the formal approval point irrelevant, Fox responded that "whatever amount is spent on those lead items then technically it is up to any parliament at any time to decide whether any programme can or cannot go ahead."

Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said "It is disingenuous for the Defence Secretary to be claiming that 'whatever amount is spent' ahead of a Parliament being asked to decide on the future of Trident, that it would then 'technically' be able to cancel it. For a Government supposedly committed to new levels of transparency, this is an appalling way to behave. How are Ministers in any way accountable if billions are spent before Parliament is even asked its view on the matter? This is an abuse of democracy and sets up a repeat of the aircraft carrier fiasco where billions are committed and projects finished not due to their usefulness in the defence of the country, but because hardly any money can be saved by cancelling them."

She continued, "The Government must come clean on what it plans to spend and when it plans to spend it. With drastic cuts across government departments, profligate spending in defence will not be forgiven by the public. Committing billions ahead of the 2015 General Election and before the 2016 decision on whether Trident is actually to be replaced is hardly representative of the 'new politics' promised by the Coalition. 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 huge orders are not placed ahead of the next election.

[Ekk/4]

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