James Lyons, the deputy political editor of the Times reported that, speaking at a NATO summit in Warsaw, David Cameron said certainty about Trident renewal was needed ‘so the investment decisions can go ahead’.
Waiting eagerly in the wings are BAE Systems, Babcock International and Rolls Royce, the Tier One industrial partners in this project, according to a parliamentary research paper.
Although commonly referred to as “the renewal or replacement of Trident”, replacement of the Trident II D5 missile is not part of the Successor programme. Under changes introduced in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the first of four submarines is now expected to enter service in the early 2030s. It will be built by BAE Systems in Barrow-in-Furness and its propulsion system by Rolls Royce at Raynesway, Derby.
The cost to the British taxpayer?
A Ministry of Defence report updated in 2015, The UK’s future nuclear deterrent, reveals that more than half a billion pounds – some £1.4m a day – was spent on the project in the last financial year (2014). It is estimated that £1.24bn has been spent on the project so far and the total cost of the project’s assessment phase, will rise to £3.3bn, nearly £300m more than the MoD originally stated – and no doubt will rise further.
A job creation/preservation scheme?
Contrary to the wording of the motion moved by Prime Minister Theresa May the replacement programme will not support many thousands of highly skilled engineering jobs. The parliamentary research paper reveals that the work is not labour intensive; about 2,200 people across the MOD and over 50% are engineers and designers from the three companies, currently working on the Successor programme. Jobs are predicted to peak at 6,000 during the building phase, involving an estimated 850 British companies in the supply chain.
Len McCluskey welcomed Jeremy Corbyn’s support for diversification and argued for pursuing it as a long term goal. He explained, “The defence sector is shrinking massively. Supporting Trident doesn’t address that decline – it’s only about managing decline. If we are serious about jobs we need to put ourselves in the vanguard of fighting for solutions for the 21st century. We need investment in productive sectors of the economy – and we can’t do that while Trident is sucking up money and skills”. Defence worker Brett Davis said, “Trident is not a job defender, it’s a job destroyer”. Chris Trestrail pointed to former defence workers who now make train carriages. Other delegates talked about renewable energy.
Many media outlets reported yesterday that Ms May, the Prime Minister, was asked by SNP MP George Kerevan whether she was “personally prepared to authorise a nuclear strike that can kill a hundred thousand innocent men, women and children”. She replied: “Yes.”
Jeremy Corbyn had earlier confirmed, in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, that he would instruct the UK’s defence chiefs never to use the Trident nuclear weapons system if he became prime minister in 2020. He said he had a mandate from his election to oppose the replacement of Trident and the use of nuclear weapons:
“I’m not making the decision that kills millions of innocent people, I do not believe the threat of mass murder is a legitimate way to go about international relations”.