Lib Dems outraged as Labour sells last Government shares in Trident

by Stephen Tall on December 21, 2008

Nick Harvey, Lib Dem shadow defence secretary, and the party’s deputy leader, Vince Cable, have condemned the decision of the Government to sell its last remaining shares in the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire to an American company – without telling Parliament. The BBC reports:

The move means Britain no longer has any stake in the production of its Trident nuclear warheads. … The fee paid by California-based Jacobs Engineering has not been disclosed. The sale of British Nuclear Fuels’ stake means Jacobs has control of one third of Aldermaston’s operating company, AWE Management. The other two thirds were already in private hands. They are split equally between American defence giant Lockheed Martin and the British plc Serco. Aldermaston is responsible for the production of warheads for the Trident nuclear deterrent programme and its planned replacement.

Nick Harvey condemned Labour’s decision:

The whole argument used for Britain having a separate weapons establishment is that this is required by the non-proliferation treaty, as technology sharing is not allowed. We must therefore query the rationale of a US company having a majority shareholding in AWE. How does this all square?”

And Vince appeared on BBC News to denounce the Government for selling assets at “a terrible time” economically, meaning the taxpayer would not get good value for the sale of the shares. You can see Vince interviewed here.

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If Trident is getting too expensive, we should decomoission it. It is a complete waste of money, and that is what we should be outraged about.
There is no country in the world that Trident is currently deterring. It will never deter terrorists, and if Russia or China want to damage us they can do so by trading sanctions. In the meantime our priority should be to spend the money saved to tackle global warming, which is our number 1 security threat.

by Geoffrey Payne on December 21, 2008 at 10:18 am. Reply #

When does this sale actually go through. If it already has, or is imminent is there not a strong case for demanding the return of Parliament.

This is the sale of something which is of manifest importance to national security* and has been done without discussion in Parliament as to the implications. SO I’ don’t think it’s an excessive step.

* In the context of an independent deterrent being a key part of our defence strategy – there is a fair debate to be had about whether that is a good policy but if we have an independent deterrent we should be confident it works if needed.

by Hywel Morgan on December 21, 2008 at 1:36 pm. Reply #

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