The government has attracted criticism and derision this morning after apparently changing a key nuclear policy twice within 24 hours – leaving it back where it started.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, indicated to the media on Thursday 16 July 2009 that the next stage of decision-making on the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system would be delayed until May 2010. This would fall after a major international summit on nuclear arms.
The news was hailed as a victory by campaigners, who objected to the previous plan to make the decision in September when Parliament will still be in recess and unable to scrutinise the process.
However, a Ministry of Defence spokesperson said this morning that “There has been no change in the government’s position on Trident”.
She added that “The policy remains as set out in the 2006 white paper and there has been no change to the timetable”.
The apparent reversal of the U-turn has triggered dismay and anger amongst critics of Trident. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) had hailed the comments from a government spokesperson yesterday as “excellent news”.
The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, accused the government of creating "chaos and confusion" over the issue.
It appears that official sources are still saying that Trident could, in principle, feature in an international disarmament agreement in the future.
Trident renewal is opposed by a number of churches, Christian NGOs, other faith groups, charities and trades unions.
Others object to the rushed timetable and the lack of Parliamentary scrutiny. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee, along with over 160 MPs of various parties, have criticised the plan to hold the next stage of decision-making in September.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty renewal conference will take place 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.
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.