Thursday, 20 January 2011

Procurement for Trident submarines to take place before a decision to build

In November, David Cameron promised that the building of new submarines would be the subject of debate after the next general election in 2015. At the time of this announcement the Liberal Democrats stated “Trident will not be renewed this parliament - not on a Liberal Democrat watch. Let us be clear, this is a significant victory for Liberal Democrat campaigners, and a fantastic example of what our ministers can and do achieve in government”.

Now, however, we learn via a Greenpeace Freedom of Information Request that, in contravention of David’s Cameron’s commitment to Parliament in November, the decision referred to as ‘initial gate’ due next month may well propose the purchase of major components such as primary and secondary propulsion systems for new Trident submarines within the lifetime of this Parliament.

By way of background, it is proposed that the UK build three or four new submarines to provide 30 or 40 years worth of continuous at-sea-deterrent. This would make the diplomatic work towards a new treaty for the elimination of all nuclear weapons even more challenging.

BAe Systems, who would manage a contract for the proposed build, require interim Ministry of Defence contracts to keep together a team of experts. The initial gate decision would provide BAe with a contract to design a potential new fleet of submarines. It now appears that the work to be outlined by ‘initial gate’ will include the purchase of major components of these submarines before the promised debate on their build. A future debate on alternative options would be impossible if the procurement and build is already underway.

It would be helpful if our local MPs could be asked about the proposed procurement schedule before a cabinet decision on ‘initial gate’ is made in February. Do consider writing to your MP. For further information see this CND briefing