Blair to announce plans for UK nuclear defence today

Monday, December 4, 2006

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is at 3:30pm to present a White Paper in the House of Commons today indicating the Government’s plans to replace the Trident missile system with a similar system but on a reduced scale. The speech is called : Statement: Trident - The Future of the UK Nuclear Deterrent.

The Trident defence system was developed as Britain’s response to the Cold War which ended with the collapse of the USSR in December 1991. The first Trident submarine went on patrol in December 1994.

The present system consists of Trident ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads carried by four Vanguard class nuclear powered submarines. The main issue is about the replacement of the submarine fleet.

There is to be debate about the proposals. Supporters who include the majority of the main opposition party, argue that because of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and threats from countries such as Iran and North Korea, Britain must have a nuclear defence capability. Opponents including at least one Cabinet Minister and several Labour back benchers, say that the system is an inappropriate response to the present threats to national security, terrorism, energy shortage and climate change and that there are better ways of spending the money. The Liberals advocate delay in making the decision. Fifteen Anglican bishops have denounced the possession of such a weapon as ‘evil’.

Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), said that although Scotland had no power to stop the replacment of the Trident weapons system, it had a host of powers to protect the environment. He promised that if the UK government went ahead with the Trident project, the SNP would propose to use those powers to stop it proceeding in Scotland. There are two establishments in Scotland, at Faslane and Rosyth, providing services to the nuclear submarine fleet.