With the impact of the global economic crisis impacting citizens in the UK, the government needs to critically assess military spending, particularly the outlay of potentially over £25 billion to replace Trident missile systems.
What is Trident?
Trident is an American designed, built and maintained nuclear missile system used on the UK’s Trident nuclear submarines. The UK leases its Trident missiles from the US and returns them to US for regular upgrading.
The Background to Trident Replacement
In March 2007, the House of Commons voted on Trident replacement. After heavy debate, 409 MPs supported the proposals, with 161 against. This vote endorsed the white paper issued in 2006 which outlines why the UK needs nuclear deterrence. Although this decision was the first to support the replacement of Trident, the decision is not final. Parliament will have opportunities to reassess UK nuclear weapons policy and requirements at the initial gate and main gate decisions.
However, this initial decision resulted in an extra £7.7 billion over three years being allocated to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for research and development of the ‘concept’ phase for a fleet of new submarines.
The initial gate decision, which will commit 15% of the procurement costs, was expected in 2009. Despite commitments made during the March 2007 debate for regular updates in Parliament and transparency in decision making, MoD announced its intention to conclude the Initial Gate decision in September 2009, during the parliamentary recess.
In response Jeremy Corbyn MP submitted an early day motion (EDM660) on 3 February 2009 requesting that the Initial Gate decision be delayed until Parliament is in session and can be presented with the report for scrutiny.
WILPF lobbied for the government to take a holistic approach to international relations in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Spending Review and called for the Trident nuclear missile system to be scrapped. The spending review resulted in an 8% cut in military spending and a postponement of the decision on the replacement of trident until the next Parliament.
WILPF will continue to work to press the government to stop Trident replacement, live up to it’s commitments under the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty and focus on human security over military security.