This Week – Time for a New Cross-Party Examination of Trident Renewal

On Wednesday of this week BASIC will launch a cross party Trident Commission to take advantage of the opportunity that was opened up by the British government to consider its nuclear weapons policy, when it decided to delay the timetable for the construction of the replacement submarines on which the Trident system crucially depends. Growing proliferation risks to states and terrorist groups, domestic fiscal constraints, and the decision to pay for Trident renewal (should it happen) from the core defence budget rather than the Treasury reserve mean there is a now new policy context that must be considered. Co-chaired by Lord Browne of Ladyton, former Labour Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former Conservative Defence and Foreign Secretary, and Sir Menzies Campbell, former leader of the Liberal Democrats and Shadow Foreign Secretary, the  Commission will therefore conduct one of the most rigorous and thorough assessments of British nuclear weapons policy ever conducted outside government.

It will:   

  • Examine the international context within which the decision on Trident renewal now sits;
  • Assess current UK nuclear weapons policy and the policy of the UK in wider efforts to promote multilateral nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation around the world;
  • Examine the strategic case for and against, and the costs associated with, Trident renewal and any potential opportunity costs for non-nuclear portions of the defence budget;  
  • Consider all possible future nuclear policy options that have the potential to maintain UK national security while further strengthening efforts at multilateral nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

In addition to the co-Chairs, other Commission members include:

Professor Alyson Bailes, Former Head of the Security Policy Department at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and former member of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission;

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former UK Ambassador to the UN;

Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, former Chief of the Defence Staff;

Professor Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield, Queen Mary, University College London;

Lord Rees of Ludlow, Astronomer Royal and former President of the Royal Society;

Dr Ian Kearns, Research Director, BASIC, Chief Executive of the newly formed European Leadership Network for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (ELN), and former Specialist Advisor to Parliament on National Security Strategy.

The Commission will conduct research, host events, and receive evidence throughout 2011 and will publish a final report in early 2012. For all those with an interest in nuclear issues and UK policy in this area, this is a major opportunity to engage in a new debate on the way forward. In coming weeks, you will be able to find more on the Commission at , including information on calls for the submission of evidence, information on the Commission’s events programme and more. If you would like to know more, or to find ways of engaging in Commission related activities, please contact Laura Spagnuolo on [email protected].

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