The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today (17 February) strongly condemned Government plans to order the steel for the first new Trident replacement submarine before any formal decision is made on whether to go ahead with the project, a decision not due until 2016.
CND said "The decision by Liam Fox is a slap in the face for the Lib Dems and a betrayal of the commitments made to them by the Prime Minister. The deal struck for the Strategic Defence review allowed the Lib Dems to say 'Trident will not be renewed this parliament - not on a Liberal Democrat watch'."
In answer to a Parliamentary question from CND Vice Chair Jeremy Corbyn MP, the Defence Secretary today confirmed that the "specialist high strength steel needed for the hull structure for the first boat is included as a long-lead item in the Initial Gate Business Case for the programme." It would therefore be purchased ahead of the 2016 'main gate' approval point when MPs are expected to decide on the future of the multi-billion pound project. Liam Fox also confirmed he did not plan to seek Parliament's approval for these pre-ordered items, which will run to well over a billion pounds.
Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said "Ordering the steel to build the submarine is what any ordinary person would think of as deciding to build the submarine. This decision is a real slap in the face for the Lib Dems and a betrayal of the commitments made to them by the Prime Minister. Nick Clegg was told the decision was delayed until 2016 - after the end of the coalition agreement, but it seems either he was sold a con, or Liam Fox is jumping the gun without the agreement of one half of the government.
"It is only four months since David Cameron announced 'the decision to start construction othe new submarines need not now be taken until around 2016.' Last year the Lib Dem President wrote to their members celebrating the fact that 'Trident will not be renewed this parliament - not on a Liberal Democrat watch'. If this is still their position, Nick Clegg and his ministers need to be fighting tooth and nail to block Liam Fox from going ahead with ordering the core components of the boats ahead of the actual decision point. Lib Dem ministers need to take a stand on this - an issue that goes to the core of the Coalition - if they are to maintain trust in what they have been telling their own members and the public."
CND Vice-Chair Jeremy Corbyn MP added "Ordering the steel and other items for the first submarines - worth over a billion pounds alone - before the Commons has even been asked to approve construction of these boats is a flagrant abuse of Parliament. This is not some small project that needs a couple of parts ahead of time, but the biggest of all defence items where every decision has global implications. When MPs last voted on this, Tony Blair made it clear he was seeking 'parliamentary approval for the concept and design phase'- not the construction of new submarines . The orders Liam Fox plans to take are therefore illegitimate, without parliamentary authority and must be halted."