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Trident in Parliament update

(From Prof. Alex Gaines)

UNITED NATIONS ASSOCIATION
(Edinburgh Branch)

A world without nuclear weapons

Whereas the Government has declared it will reduce the number of operational nuclear warheads we possess from 160 to 120 it continues to proceed with the renewal of the Trident system.

The House of Commons held a debate about this on March 1st when the MOD estimated that the initial expenditure on equipment would amount to half a billion pounds. We are sincerely grateful to Sheila Gilmore MP for e-mailing us and telling us of her anxieties. (See below) .

You will recall that the Government

- believes that there are no hostile states threatening us with nuclear weapons

- considers we need Trident lest we incur a nuclear threat in 20-40 years time

- states we will never use nuclear weapons contrary to International Law (and
thus we will never use them).

It is difficult to imagine what useful purpose is served by renewing Trident; it is not diffcult to imagine ways that half a billion pounds could be spent towards achieving the Government's aim of a safer world in which no country feels the need for nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately this weekend's student workshop in London with the Foreign Office had to be postponed because the FCO is fully ocupied with events in North Africa.

We are trying to put Middle East UNAs in touch with each other so as to facilitate their engagement with the 2012 UN Conference to initiate a WMD-Free Middle East.

(a.f.gaines@strath.ac.uk Edinburgh UNA, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Working Group)
________________________________
From: GILMORE, Sheila [sheila.gilmore.mp@parliament.uk]
Sent: 09 March 2011 12:18
To: A Gaines
Subject: Update from Sheila Gilmore MP RE Trident Renewal

09 March 2011

Mr Alec Gaines
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Working Group
United Nations Association (Edinburgh Branch)
Edinburgh
Our Ref: MB/UNIT02001/

Dear Mr Gaines

There have been a number of recent developments that I wish to update you on.

To understand these developments it is important to clarify the terminology used in Ministry of Defence procurement processes, of which Trident is one. After feasibility and concept studies are undertaken, a decision as to whether to progress to the assessment stage is taken. This is referred to as 'Initial Gate'. Spending during the assessment stage generally constitutes between 2 to 5% of overall spending on a specific project. A decision is then made as to whether to progress to the demonstration and manufacture stage. This is referred to as 'Main Gate'.

The Government has already confirmed that it will defer the Main Gate decision on Trident to 2016. I view this as positive as it provides more time to make the case against trident renewal. However there are concerns that should the Initial Gate be passed then the Government will spend significantly more money in advance of Main Gate so as to make the case in later years that it would be uneconomical not to proceed with replacement given the amounts already spent.

This issue was raised at Prime Minister's Questions on 9 February 2011. The Prime Minister stated:

'The replacement of Trident is going ahead. The investment is going in; the Initial Gate will soon be passed.'

You can find a transcript here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110209/debtext/110209-0001.htm#11020962000026

There was a Westminster Hall debate on the issue on Tuesday 1 March 2011. The Defence Minister, Peter Luff MP, argued that the government would not be locked into contracts at Main Gate and that the precise value of long-lead items purchased ahead of Main Gate would amount to around £500 million. He also indicated that the Government would not permit Parliament to review the Initial Gate decision, as such internal Ministry of Defence business cases are not...

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