Public criticism and campaigning has led to the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown announcing a delay to plans for the renewal of the controversial Trident nuclear weapons system.
The next stage of decision-making in the process had been planned for September, when Parliament is in recess and would be unable to scrutinise the plans. Brown has now postponed it until after a major international summit on nuclear arms set for May 2010.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) said yesterday that they “warmly welcomed” the news.
The announcement marks a rapid U-turn on the part of the government, which indicated yesterday morning that the decision would go ahead in September. It was not until later in the day, following lobbying by a number of MPs, that Brown reversed this policy.
CND has long called for the decision to be made while Parliament is sitting, a view backed by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and over 160 MPs of various parties.
Trident renewal is opposed by a number of churches, Christian NGOs, other faith groups, charities and trades unions.
Officials stated that the Prime Minister remained committed in principle to Trident renewal but that Trident could still form part of a disarmament deal at some point.
Government sources are reported to have said that US President Barrack Obama’s approach to the world had changed the balance of the debate, not least due to a recent disarmament deal with Russia. This point had been made repeatedly by CND.
“This delay is excellent news” said CND’s Kate Hudson last night. “We hope this is the first sign that the Government is really prepared to respond to the changed mood, not just from leaders like President Obama, but also from the British public”.
An ICM poll earlier this week revealed that the majority of British voters now want the UK to scrap its nuclear arsenal. This is thought to be the first time that this has been the case.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty renewal conference will be held in Washington in May. It is expected to consider armament cuts from nuclear states in return for assurance that non-nuclear states will not seek to develop nuclear arms.