The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament yesterday (27 February 2013) rejected Lord West's call for Labour to back like-for-like replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system as "ill-founded and out-of-touch."
His comments have coincided with a new study by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) which sees spending on a successor system consuming over a third of the defence budget within a decade.
"While many analysts and MPs of all political hues are seriously questioning the strategic relevance of this Cold War weapons system – not to mention the debilitating cost – Lord West's comments are ill-founded and out-of-touch", said CND's General Secretary, Kate Hudson.
"It seems he is trying to quash any debate rather than engaging with it at a time when Labour is looking at its policies in this and other areas. Just this month, former Labour Defence Secretary Des Browne, who presided over the initial decision to move forward with replacing Trident has questioned whether it was the right thing to do. Lord Browne stated that it is 'neither strategically sound nor economically viable'. This open thinking has to be the way forward for Labour: not West's Cold War mentality.
"West claims that the decision on Trident must be 'driven by national security needs' – but he overlooks the fact that nuclear weapons do not address any of the key threats identified by the government's own National Security Strategy: terrorism, cyber warfare, natural disasters, climate change.
"Bizarrely, West also ignores the enormous costs involved: more than £100 billion over the lifetime of a replacement system. Today's RUSI report estimates that spending on a successor system would consume around 35 per cent of the procurement budget by 2021/22. And the opportunity cost elsewhere in government budgets, whether health, education or social services is the subject of widespread popular dissatisfaction."
She concluded: "From military personnel to the wider British public: just ask them how they would like to see £100 billion of their money spent. The answer should be an eye-opener for Lord West."