Britain To Unveil Plans To Replace Nuclear Missile System
File photo: Trident missile launch.
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Nov 22, 2006
Britain is to publish proposals by the end of the year on how to replace its ageing nuclear deterrent Trident missiles, Prime Minister Tony Blair told lawmakers Monday. Blair confirmed a question from the leader of the smaller opposition Liberal Democrats Menzies Campbell that the government's position on whether to maintain the Trident missile system would be set out by the turn of the year. He also said he was "sure" lawmakers would get a chance to vote on the issue.
"I believe it is important that we maintain the independent nuclear deterrent," he told Campbell during the weekly "prime minister's questions" in the lower chamber House of Commons.
The issue of whether to scrap Trident -- which will become obsolete with the four Vanguard class submarines that carry them in the mid-2020s -- is a deeply divisive issue among Blair's governing Labour Party.
Scrapping nuclear weapons -- and also nuclear power -- was a totemic issue for the left-wing party in the 1980s but the policy was dropped before the 1997 general election, when Blair's revamped centre-left "New Labour" was elected.
Instead, its manifesto pledged to retain Trident.
Blair's likely successor, finance minister Gordon Brown, has previously said he, too, is in favour of keeping Britain's nuclear deterrent.
But a number of senior ministers, including Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, reportedly have concerns about it.
Anti-nuclear campaigners are currently lobbying hard against any replacement, including via an online petition on the prime minister's own website.
By Wednesday, there had been more than 2,000 signatories supporting the motion: "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to champion the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, by not replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system."