Scrapping Trident nuclear subs ‘irresponsible folly’, say UK ex-military chiefs

By on 30/04/2015 | Updated on 25/09/2020
A total of 20 former military chiefs, including Sir Kevin Tebbit, former permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defence, warn that a decision not to renew the UK's nuclear deterrent would be "irresponsible folly”

A total of 20 former military chiefs have written to the incoming British prime minister with a warning that a decision not to renew the UK’s nuclear deterrent would be “irresponsible folly”.

The UK currently has four Trident submarines which can carry nuclear missiles. But the topic has divided parties in this year’s election campaign which will come to an end next Thursday when British citizens will take to the polls.

While Labour and the Conservatives committed to renewing all four Trident submarines if elected, The Scottish National Party, which is expected to win all of Scotland’s 59 seats, and the Greens want Trident to be scrapped.

The UK Independence Party, which has seen support soar over the last year in the midst of a growing anti-Europe and anti-immigration sentiment, and the Liberal Democrats favour cutting to three.

In an open letter to The Times newspaper, 20 former defence chiefs said to “abandon” Britain’s four Trident submarines would be “an enormous gamble” which could threaten “the survival of our nation”.

Signatories include Lord Robertson, former UK secretary of state for defence and secretary general of NATO; Lord Hutton, former secretary of state for defence; General Lord Richards, former chief of the defence staff; Sir Kevin Tebbit, former permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defence; and Sir David Omand, former permanent secretary of the Home Office and director of GCHQ – Britain’s national security surveillance agency.

The open letter addressed to “the incoming Prime Minister 2015” said a decision not to renew the fleet would “effectively end

Britain’s nuclear deterrent”, and would be “irrevocable”.

“To abandon Trident now and for good in the hope that no threat will emerge would be to take an enormous gamble on behalf of generations not yet born,” they said.

“In an uncertain world where some powers are now displaying a worrying faith in nuclear weapons as an instrument of policy and influence, it would be irresponsible folly to abandon Britain’s own independent deterrent.” The decision would affect “the security and ultimately the survival of our nation”, they said.

The UK had made reductions in its nuclear arsenal proportionately greater than any other nuclear weapons power, which represented “a huge contribution towards nuclear disarmament”, the letter said. “We should stand ready to do more, but only if it can be proved that it does not compromise minimum levels of nuclear deterrence,” it added.

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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