Trident may be paid for from the MOD budget but we still face swingeing cuts elsewhere to pay for military spending, writes Kate Hudson.
The ongoing Treasury/MoD row over who will pay for Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system has really hotted up. While Cameron was busy offending Pakistan in New Delhi, the Chancellor was busy upsetting the MoD. "I have made it very clear", he said "that Trident renewal costs must be taken as part of the defence budget".
So it looks like the cost of building new Trident submarines will come from the MoD's capital budget (big spend items like subs and aircraft carriers), taking up to 25% of it, according to an anonymous MoD source. This will average out in excess of £2 billion a year over the build period, in addition to over £2 billion a year from other MoD budgets on running costs for the existing system - and then the costs of running the new one must also be added.
Cautious estimates suggest that Britain’s total spend on nuclear weapons will top £100 billion. And it may well work out to be a lot more than that. ‚Ä®‚Ä®Cost over-runs are a near certainty, with the current Astute submarine programme (nuclear powered subs with conventional weapons) running 48% over budget and almost four years late.
Similar cost over-runs on the Trident replacement submarines could decimate army, air force and surface naval projects. ‚Ä®‚Ä®The vast spending on nuclear weapons is increasingly looking like a millstone round the neck of British defence policy, even to those who claim they want it - like Defence Secretary Liam Fox, who is reduced to scaremongering about runaway nuclear proliferation.
He has named a number of Middle Eastern countries that he thinks might go for a nuclear option. But if it is really the government’s assessment that countries like Saudi Arabia will renege on their treaty commitments and develop nuclear weapons, why are we continuing to supply them with vast amounts of weaponry, underpinned by taxpayer loan guarantees?
Surely it is up to people like Fox to justify why there should be swingeing cuts to the rest of the armed forces - and government spending in other areas - to pay for nuclear weapons. They say they want Trident, but clearly not badly enough to pay for it. They don't want to cut back anything else and want 'someone else' to fund it. But whichever budget it comes from, the reality is that we're all having to endure huge cuts elsewhere so that this white elephant can be retained.
Kate Hudson is the chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Kate Hudson is the General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and a founder member of Left Unity. She was instrumental in building the Stop the War Coalition and was one of the organisers of the million-strong 2003 demonstration against the invasion of Iraq. She has written widely on a number of subjects and spoken on many platforms. She is active in the People’s Assembly and the Greece Solidarity Campaign.