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 bebeneficial to UK security and our economy.

The Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and theUnited Reformed Church have launched a campaign - "Better off Without Trident" - which calls on the Governmentnot to spend £26 billion of tax payers' money on replacing thecountry's nuclear submarines. The maintenance and operation ofthese submarines is likely to cost at least an additional £29billion over 15 years. An online resource, launched today, explainshow UK public services, employment opportunities and nationalsecurity would all be improved by decommissioning the UK's nuclearmissiles.

Each year for 15 years, Trident will cost the UK £3.7 billion. Forthe same amount, the Government could invest in: 15,000 more healthvisitors; 15,000 more teachers; 300 Sure Start centres; 12,500 newcouncil houses per year; solar energy for 345,000 council housesand still leave an additional billion pounds available to supportour troops. The three Churches are encouraging people to make thecase 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'sspending plans. We are being told that we must accept cutbacks inpublic services. At a time when the protection for the poorest inour society is under pressure it is surely wrong to tie up so muchpublic money in nuclear missiles and their delivery systems. Thereis still time for the Government to say "no" to Trident."

The next big Parliamentary debate on Trident is likely to takeplace around or immediately following the General Election in 2015.In May last year the Ministry of Defence approved the "InitialGate" decision to spend £4 billion on a nuclear power propulsionsystem and other items for the proposed new Trident submarines. TheChurches have expressed concerns that this £4 billion spending isalready £2 billion over budget. The expenditure already committedwould not be wasted if the procured items could be switched to anexisting submarine development programme.

The Revd Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Unionof Great Britain, said: "In these days of austerity and severecutbacks it would be extraordinary not to revisit the Tridentissue. We fully appreciate the need for the country to haveappropriate defence, but urge the Government to abandon thisextraordinarily expensive project which relates to a defencecontext that has long since disappeared."

Spending on Trident is unpopular with many senior Ministry ofDefence staff who have seen other capital projects cancelled, wholeregiments axed and Forces personnel put under strain due to theintensity of operational deployments. Trident consumes six per centof the Ministry of Defence revenue budget. The new START treatysigned by the US and Russia has strengthened calls for progresstowards complete nuclear disarmament. Church leaders said that ifthe Government continues with the Trident programme, the UK wouldbe locked into nuclear weapons for the next 30 to 40 years. Fromthe perspective of Christian ethics the Churches have expressedconcern about the moral implications of becoming accustomed toviolence and the exercise of power associated with continuedpossession of nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War era. They calledon the Government to adopt a leadership role in the multilateraldisarmament processes in order to enable progress towards a worldwithout nuclear weapons.