Church leaders oppose Government's decision to sign a £3 billion cheque for nuclear submarines that might not be bought

Church leaders have denounced the Government's decisionyesterday to spend at least £3 billion on a nuclear weapons system.The Government has delayed a final vote on buying a replacement forthe Trident weapons system until 2016, but yesterday DefenceSecretary Liam Fox announced his approval for the initial £3billion phase of production. Leaders from The Methodist Church, TheBaptist Union and the United Reformed Church said the Government'sbacking of a new nuclear weapons system was "unaffordable, immoraland strategically unwise".

Paul Morrison, policy adviser for The Methodist Church, said: "TheGovernment's decision means that we are committed to £3 billion ofexpenditure whether Parliament chooses to purchase the new Tridentsystem in five years time or not. This comes at a time whencommunities are suffering from the impact of local governmentspending cuts. Youth services, SureStart Centres, Back-to-WorkClubs have all had their funding cut because we have been told thatwe can no longer afford to sustain them.

"The £3 billion the Government has committed could pay the entirebudget for every SureStart Centre in the country for the next twoyears; £3 billion would stop every council cut this year, and thefirst ten months of next year. Instead, that money is being used topurchase an option of whether to buy weapons of massdestruction."

According to government figures, a new nuclear weapons system wouldcost £25 billion in production costs and at least £4 billion a yearto maintain. If Parliament votes against a Trident replacement, the£3 billion expenditure yesterday would be added to the country'sdeficit without anything to show for it.

Simon Loveitt, United Reformed Church spokesperson on publicissues, said: "The Government's decision is to commit us to amassive piece of spending from which there is no going back - andyet they tell us their primary focus is to bring down the deficit.This is not what people voted for."

Graham Sparkes, Head of Faith and Unity at the Baptist Union ofGreat Britain, said: "If we buy these weapons the annual cost ispredicted to be more than £4 billion for every year we have them.The total cuts across Government this year amount to £6.2 billion.With £4 billion each year we could double university funding, butif we buy these nuclear weapons, we will cast a shadow over thenext generation."