Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Investment not Trident

By Michael Burke

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has produced a new pamphlet, People Not Trident. It argues against the colossal waste of funding needed to a replace the Trident nuclear weapons system. It makes the case that the £100bn saved could be used to invest in a whole host of sectors, housing, education, international development, the switch to renewable energy, and so on.

The full pamphlet can be downloaded here (pdf).

Almost no area of government spending has been spared from the axe of austerity. Housing, health, education and social security payments have all been cut. Pay and pensions, public sector jobs, even support for people with disabilities have all been hit.

Yet the one important exception to this is the government’s commitment to the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system. Yet the total cost of replacing Trident amounts to £100 billion.

To put this in context, £100bn on replacing Trident is approximately equivalent to a full year’s public sector deficit, on current performance.

Chart 1. Budget deficits and Trident replacement costs compared

In the most recent Financial Year the underlying deficit[i] was £110bn. Yet the proposal is to spend £100bn on replacing Trident - almost exactly equivalent to a single year’s budget deficit. This is despite the fact that the stated aim of the Coalition has been to reduce that deficit.

A wide variety of organisations, campaign groups and activists (including the current author) have contributed to the pamphlet to show what could be done with all, or even a fraction of the £100bn that would be wasted on replacing a weapons system of mass destruction,.

Crucially, investment in all these areas has a beneficial spin-off on output in other sectors, on prosperity and on jobs. In the jargon these are known as the ‘multiplier effects’. By contrast, Trident and its possible successor has none of these effects. The economic effect of nuclear weapons systems is a fraction of the initial outlay. This is because immensely high-tech equipment such as this can only be used in the event of global nuclear conflagration. It cannot be used to improve economic activity.

Only a government which wanted to intimidate the rest of the world would waste £100bn in replacing an unaffordable nuclear weapons system. A government committed primarily to the well-being of its citizens would not even consider it.




[i] These data are for underlying deficit. In line with Office for National Accounts practice they exclude two important accounting items; changes to the treatment of the Royal Mail Pension Fund and the impact of the purchase of UK government securities by the Bank of England

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