The news that Ben Wallace, our nation’s Defence Secretary has been quietly trying to persuade the USA to spend more money and invest more time and energy in developing a new form of nuclear warheads is deeply concerning. It emerged in a Guardian online article late on Saturday but as the article points out it was based on a letter that Mr Wallace sent out in April to the US Congress. The Guardian article is available here. The piece begins with these two sentences which are sufficiently concerning.
The UK has been lobbying the US Congress in support of a controversial new warhead for Trident missiles, claiming it is critical for “the future of Nato as a nuclear alliance”. A letter from Britain’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace, seen by the Guardian, urged Congress to support initial spending on the warhead, the W93.
The Conservative manifesto published in October 2019 did state very clearly that despite our nation acting as the source of an International policy to end the use of nuclear weapons that we are not going to end the provision in the next five years based on the terms included, However it equally did not claim that we were going to upgrade or extend our provision either.
We will maintain our Trident nuclear deterrent, which guarantees our security.
So although many people including myself believe that Nuclear weapons are a completely inappropriate way of running our military provision, there is clearly no prospect of us ending Trident in the near future. However to upgrade Trident items is equally a step beyond what the Tory manifesto claimed it would set out to achieve. There were a number of other defence based themes which demonstrate that our defence provision is much wider than any nuclear elements. Indeed many of us feel that they are a much more sensible form of investment. The big question therefore is why Mr Wallace has written to the US Congress without discussing this proposal with Parliament or indeed with us as the nation. In case there is any doubt about this, prior to the 25th February this year, the last time that Wallace mentioned Trident in Parliament was in 2016. His statement this year which is shown below was very clear that he was not proposing to dramatically upgrade the Trident as long back as February and yet by April he had apparently chosen to begin to discuss it with the US Congress, who perhaps he considers more important than our Parliament?
In 2007 the Government, endorsed by a Parliamentary vote, began a programme to maintain the UK’s nuclear deterrent beyond the early 2030s. The 2015 Strategic Defence & Security Review (Cm 9161) confirmed the UK’s commitment to an independent minimum credible deterrent, reaffirmed in 2016 when the House voted overwhelmingly to maintain the Continuous At Sea Deterrence posture. Our independent nuclear deterrent is essential to defend the UK and our NATO allies against the most extreme threats to our national security and way of life. The Government’s 2019 manifesto pledged: “We will maintain our Trident nuclear deterrent, which guarantees our security”. To ensure the Government maintains an effective deterrent throughout the commission of the Dreadnought Class ballistic missile submarine we are replacing our existing nuclear warhead to respond to future threats and the security environment.
As set out in our annual updates to Parliament on the Future of the UK’s Nuclear Deterrent the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Nuclear Organisation is working with the Atomic Weapons Establishment: to build the highly skilled teams and put in place the facilities and capabilities needed to deliver the replacement warhead; whilst also sustaining the current warhead until it is withdrawn from service. We will continue to work closely with the U.S. to ensure our warhead remains compatible with the Trident Strategic Weapon System.
Delivery of the replacement warhead will be subject to the Government’s major programme approvals and oversight. My Department will continue to provide updates through the annual report to Parliament on the United Kingdom’s future nuclear deterrent.
Given that Parliament itself is now closed down till early September perhaps we could persuade our MPs to write to him to call for a clarity regarding why he has chosen to change his mind and the mind of his political party and in doing so has chosen to fail to communicate with Parliament and with the electors?