14 February 2012

Churches - UK would be £55 billion better off without Trident

Churches are urging the Government not to shackle the UK to a £55 billion spending commitment on Trident over the next 15 years. They argue that dispensing with nuclear missiles would be beneficial to UK security and our economy.

The Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church have launched a campaign - "Better off Without Trident" - which calls on the Government not to spend £26 billion of tax payers' money on replacing the country's nuclear submarines. The maintenance and operation of these submarines is likely to cost at least an additional £29 billion over 15 years. An online resource, launched today, explains how UK public services, employment opportunities and national security would all be improved by decommissioning the UK's nuclear missiles.

Each year for 15 years, Trident will cost the UK £3.7 billion. For the same amount, the Government could invest in: 15,000 more health visitors; 15,000 more teachers; 300 Sure Start centres; 12,500 new council houses per year; solar energy for 345,000 council houses and still leave an additional billion pounds available to support our troops. The three Churches are encouraging people to make the case against Trident to their MPs.

The Revd Leo Osborn, President of the Methodist Conference, said: "This is one of the biggest capital projects in the Government's spending plans. We are being told that we must accept cutbacks in public services. At a time when the protection for the poorest in our society is under pressure it is surely wrong to tie up so much public money in nuclear missiles and their delivery systems. There is still time for the Government to say "no" to Trident."

The next big Parliamentary debate on Trident is likely to take place around or immediately following the General Election in 2015. In May last year the Ministry of Defence approved the "Initial Gate" decision to spend £4 billion on a nuclear power propulsion system and other items for the proposed new Trident submarines. The Churches have expressed concerns that this £4 billion spending is already £2 billion over budget. The expenditure already committed would not be wasted if the procured items could be switched to an existing submarine development programme.

The Revd Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said: "In these days of austerity and severe cutbacks it would be extraordinary not to revisit the Trident issue. We fully appreciate the need for the country to have appropriate defence, but urge the Government to abandon this extraordinarily expensive project which relates to a defence context that has long since disappeared."

Spending on Trident is unpopular with many senior Ministry of Defence staff who have seen other capital projects cancelled, whole regiments axed and Forces personnel put under strain due to the intensity of operational deployments. Trident consumes six per cent of the Ministry of Defence revenue budget. The new START treaty signed by the US and Russia has strengthened calls for progress towards complete nuclear disarmament. Church leaders said that if the Government continues with the Trident programme, the UK would be locked into nuclear weapons for the next 30 to 40 years. From the perspective of Christian ethics the Churches have expressed concern about the moral implications of becoming accustomed to violence and the exercise of power associated with continued possession of nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War era. They called on the Government to adopt a leadership role in the multilateral disarmament processes in order to enable progress towards a world without nuclear weapons. 

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