Spending on Trident or child poverty?


So, the credit crunch kaleidoscope has been shaken with an interesting atomic fallout ("Tories cast doubt on £21bn Trident nuclear missile upgrade," May 1).

At prime minister's question time this week former Labour foreign office minister Chris Mullin  suggested "given that the Government are a little strapped for cash at the moment, might this be the moment to reconsider our commitment to spend £20 billion on a new generation of nuclear weapons?"

Gordon Brown retorted "that  [£20 bn] expenditure is over more than 20 years," adding that "we wish to use the fact of our deterrent to bring about non-proliferation of nuclear weapons throughout the world and to persuade other countries to be part of a process of nuclear disarmament. At the moment there is an opportunity for the major powers to reduce their nuclear weapons." (Hansard, 29 April: Column 864)

However, just a day earlier, defence minister Quentin Davies revealed in a written answer to Lib.Dem defence spokesman Nick Harvey that based on current contract assumptions and subject to any change in priorities, the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE plc) at Aldermaston – which researches new designs and builds nuclear warheads –  is "planning to recruit in the order of 110 scientists, 160 engineers and 180 technicians over the next five years. The areas of expertise are diverse, and will include computer, measurement and material science; decommissioning and waste management; facility design and operations; manufacturing; systems engineering; project management; assurance, and IT/telecommunications."(Hansard, 28 April: Column 1156W)

This week one MP, Dai Davies, independent member for Blaenau Gwent submitted a motion (EDM 1382, on Child Povery Funding) contrasting the paltry Budget 2009 announcement of £20 /a year /increase in child tax credit above indexation from April 2010 (para 5.13, page 91, Budget Red Book) – pointing out it  amounts to just 38.4 pence per week for the poor – with the £200 billion plus made available to support the failed banks and the £76 billion cost of building and operation of a replacement for the Trident nuclear weapons of mass destruction system. Just 14 MPs have backed it to date.

It recalls Labour's pledge to end child poverty, and calls on the Government to uphold its pledge to abolish child poverty and to make resources available by cancelling all plans to replace Trident and place the current Trident system into international multilateral nuclear arms abolition negotiations.

(http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=38543&SESSION=899 <http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=38543&SESSION=899>)

As we move into pre-election politics, we should be told whether Her Majesty's official opposition are prepared to  negotiate away our nuclear WMDs, as President Obama is pledged to do, or merely switch to a different, perhaps  financially cheaper,  nuclear weapons system.


Dr David Lowry
former director, European Proliferation Information Centre (EPIC)

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