Trident Commission: Evidence, Events and Publicity

Evidence Submissions

During the course of its work, the Commission will seek submissions of evidence from interested parties. Written submissions, with the permission of those submitting evidence, will be published here and organised by theme.These are the initial questions that we are seeking submissions on, and we will be adding more as the commission’s work progresses:

  1. Should the UK remain a nuclear weapon state?
  2. If it should, is Trident renewal the only or best option that the U.K. can and should pursue?
  3. What more can and should the U.K do to more effectively promote global nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and nuclear security?

Evidence was received from:

  1. Profs. Keith Barnham, David Caplin, Tom Kibble and Jenny Nelson, Imperial College London, MARCH 2011
  2. General Sir Hugh Beach, a former Master-General of the OrdnanceAPRIL 2011
  3. Sir David Omand, GBC.  Visiting Professor, Department of War Studies,  King’s College London, MAY 2011
  4. Professor John Simpson, Director of The Mountbatten Centre for International Studies, University of Southampton, MAY 2011
  5. Rt Hon Lord Owen CH FRCP, MAY 2011
  6. Admiral Lord West, MAY 2011
  7. Commodore Tim Hare, JUNE 2011
  8. Bernard Jenkin MP, JULY 2011
  9. Dr Julian Lewis MPJULY 2011
  10. The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the United Reformed Church, AUGUST 2011
  11. Admiral the Lord Boyce, SEPTEMBER 2011
  12. Bruce Kent, Vice-President of CND, SEPTEMBER 2011
  13. Aboltion 2000
  14. Lord George Robertson, former UK Defence Secretary and NATOSecretary-General, SEPTEMBER 2011
  16. David Broucher, Former UK Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament and Head of the UK NPT Delegation, OCTOBER 2011
  17. Institute for Law and Peace (INLAP)/World Court ProjectUK, OCTOBER 2011
  18. Quaker Action St Andrews, NOVEMBER 2011
  19. Squadron Leader Dave Tisdale RAF (Retd) and Mr Christopher Samuel – Founder Members of DefenceSynergia,NOVEMBER 2011
  20. Nuclear Free Local Authorities, DECEMBER 2011
  21. Nuclear Information Service, JANUARY 2012
  22. Conservative Way Forward, APRIL 2012
  23. Ward Wilson, Senior Fellow at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies of the Monterey Institute, JUNE 2012
  24. Peter Cannon, The Henry Jackson Society, JUNE 2012
  25. United Nations Association of the UK, JULY 2012
  26. Nuclear Information Service, AUGUST 2012
  27. Tim Hare, DECEMBER 2012
  28. Rt Hon Lord David Owen, JANUARY 2013
  29. CND, JANUARY 2013


Launch Event, 9 February 2011

The BASIC Trident Commission was launched in Parliament on February 9. The evening demonstrated the Commission’s promise to be the most important initiative on nuclear weapons policy in 2011.

Several speakers pointed to its fortuitous timing and approach – to create a considered space to have a genuine and highly informed rethink. In introducing the meeting, Paul Ingram,BASIC’s Executive Director, said that the government’s recent decision to delay the start of construction for the new submarines until 2016, after the next election, guaranteed that this would be an election issue and that parties would need to be reconsidering their positions in the next few years prior to writing their manifestos.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind identified three key questions for the Commission: is there a need for a deterrent today; if so, is Trident the best solution; if so, can its structure and operational posture be modified in helpful ways? He also said that whilst all members of the Commission inevitably came to such an issue with established viewpoints, they were all open to change; indeed he said that his own view had shifted a great deal over the last five years in response to international changes.

James Blitz of the FT pointed out that recent experience demonstrated that it was important for defence projects to be closely scrutinised at an early point, and highlighted two questions: how do the costs of Trident weigh on overall defence spending? and what scope was there for moving away from continuous-at-sea deterrence (CASD)?

Lord Hannay roundly welcomed the Commission, giving his understanding of the international dimension, and the difficulties demanding proactive action to reduce the dangers from nuclear weapons.

Sir Menzies Campbell commented that the Commission could represent a unique opportunity to set the agenda, and identified his key issues for the Commission as: CASD; finances; alternatives; and industrial/scientific issues.

Lord Browne hoped that the Commission’s process would engage a broad cross-section of the public, and criticised the government for excluding Trident from the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010.

Lord Guthrie (Commission member and former Chief of Defence Staff) asked what it was we had to give up to retain Trident, and whether there were not cheaper forms of deterrent, given Pakistan’s ability to keep everyone guessing with a far less sophisticated nuclear arsenal.

John Duncan (UK Ambassador for Disarmament) pointed out the need to ensure that states’ initiatives took appropriate account of the international context, and that there was a need to consider multilateral disarmament moves on the part of all nuclear weapon states, a point picked up by Des Browne in saying that the United Kingdom could not and should not avoid the multilateral disarmament process.

Prof Alyson Bailes (Commission member and former Foreign Office Policy head) agreed on the need to consider the impact of its approach on others, pointing out that no matter what one’s final position on disarmament is, there are a range of options for the Commission to consider.

Lord Rees (Commission member and recent President of Royal Society) claimed that there was a lack of expert involvement in the public debate (when compared to the United States), and hoped the Commission would in some way improve on that situation.

Minister of State for the Armed Forces Nick Harvey attended the launch, strongly welcoming the establishment of the Commission. He too observed that there was a tendency in these decisions to neglect important options, and to decide on insufficient information, and hoped that the Commission would encourage officials to go deeper in some neglected areas. His remarks were reported by the Guardian later that evening.

Parliament Event: 31 October 2011

Using the Question Time format, audience members were invited to submit questions on the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons posture and plans. Anita Anand, presenter on Radio 4 and 5, was the Chair. The panelists were:

  • Baroness Shirley Williams
  • Dr. Julian Lewis, MP
  • Sir David Omand, former senior official, Ministry of Defence
  • Tim Hare, former director, nuclear policy, Ministry of Defence
  • Prof. Michael Clarke, RUSI

The meeting was sponsored by Lord Browne of Ladyton, co-Chair of the Trident Commission alongside Sir Malcolm Rifkind, MP and Sir Menzies Campbell, MP. It was held in the Palace of Westminster.

For the full event summary, please click here.

APPG Event: 5 December 2012

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Security and Non-Proliferation featured the Trident Commission’s work in an event entitled ‘The Trident Commission: work in progress’. Authors of the Trident Commission’s second and third briefing reports, Professor Keith Hartley and Bruno Tertrais, were there to discuss their publications alongside of Trident Commission co-chair, Lord Browne of Ladyton who explained the progress of the Commission’s work to date.

Publicity and References

1) House of Lords Library Note & Debate on 24 January: Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament

The BASIC Trident Commission was featured in the Library Note background reading in advance of the debate in the House of Lords on multilateral nuclear disarmament on January 24, 2013. The Trident Commission was featured on p.43 under the heading ‘Recent UK Policy Developments’.  The Commission’s first briefing paper, ‘Trends in Other Nuclear Armed States’ was also featured in the section on Recent Commentary on Prospects for Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (see p. 46). Click here to read the HoL Library Note.

The BASIC Trident Commission was mentioned in the debate in the House of Lords by Labour Shadow Minister, Baron Stewart Wood of Anfield: “…we in this [Labour] party have said that we are open to examining any new evidence since our review of Britain’s nuclear weapons arsenal in 2006 and we will consider its findings alongside other studies, such as the cross-party BASIC Trident Commission, which is chaired by my noble friend Lord Browne, to see if there are credible alternatives.” Click here to read the transcript of the debate on multilateral nuclear disarmament.

2) House of Lords Motion Defence Capabilities: EUC Report

October 24, 2012

The Trident Commission was mentioned in a Motion in the House of Lords to take note of the “Report of the European Union Committee on European Defence Capabilities: lessons from the past, signposts for the future”. Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer referenced Keith Hartley’s findings about the cost of Trident replacement in her discussion about nuclear capabilities: “…phasing out the Trident system would save something like £83 billion, according to the Trident Commission which is co-chaired by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the noble Lord, Lord Browne, and Sir Menzies Campbell;”.

Click here to read the transcript (The montion on ‘Defence Capabilities:EUC Report’ begins on p. GC 50, Baroness Miller’s discussion is featured on p. GC 62-GC 64)

3) House of Lords Debate: Defence: Trident Replacement Programme

June 19, 2012

The Trident Commission was featured in a debate in the House of Lords on Defence: Trident Replacement Programme. The question, posed by Lord Lea of Condall was “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the consequences for nuclear nonproliferation of proceeding with aTrident replacement programme.” Lord Lea went on to discuss Keith Hartley’s findings in the second Trident Commission briefing paper: “Recent researches for the Trident Commission show that the nuclear powers will be spending $1 trillion—$1,000 billion—over the next 10 years.” Read the entire transcript here (The ‘Defence: Trident Replacement Programme’ debate begins on p. 1652).

4) Ditching Trident ‘would save UK £84bn’

March 23, 2012

Micheal Settle of Herald Scotland writes about the second BASIC Trident Commission report written by Professor Keith Hartley.

View the full article on Herald Scotland’s website:

5) Forget about the taxes row: if Osborne is serious about fiscal stability, he should wield the axe on Trident

March 22, 2012

Blake Ewing, editor of Politics in Spires, a blog by Oxford and Cambridge University, highlights some of the facts presented in the Trident Commission’s second report on the defence-industrial aspects of Trident.

View the full blog post on Politics in Spires:

6) Scrapping Trident nuclear missiles ‘would save £83.5bn’

March 21, 2012

Professor Keith Hartley’s economic analysis for the BASIC Trident Commission is covered by Richard Norton-Taylor in The Guardian.

View the full article on The Guardian’s website:

7) Study counts cost of Trident

March 21, 2012
The Financial Times highlights some of the key economic findings of the latest report written for the BASIC Trident Commission.

Read the article by FT defence and diplomatic editor James Blitz:

8) Scrapping Trident ‘premature’

March 5, 2012

Sir Menzies Campbell, speaking on the Today programme, describes theBASIC Trident Commission as looking at all the realistic options for Britain’s nuclear deterrent, in the context of report released from the Liberal policy think tank Centre Forum.

Click below to listen to the BBC audio file:

9) 21st Century Defence: Labour Party Shadow Defence Review

February 2012

The BASIC Trident Commission was mentioned in the Labour Party’s Defence Review Consultation Paper released in February.  The paper claims that, upon review of the Labour Party’s position on the nuclear deterrent, the Labour Party will examine the findings of the BASIC Trident Commission, along with the Government’s own Alternatives Review (p. 17).

10) World Faces New Nuclear Arms Race

October 31, 2011

A new nuclear arms race may be developing as smaller states develop their own strategic and tactical nuclear programmes and established nuclear powers refuse to “seriously contemplate” a future without their nuclear arsenals, reporting on the BASIC Trident Commission’s first briefing.

Click below to read the full article:

11) Nuclear powers plan weapons spending spree, report finds

October 30, 2011

Richard Norton Taylor reports on BASIC Trident Commision’s first report thatUS to spend £700bn in next decade while Russia and Pakistan among those assigning roles to weapons beyond deterrence. 

12) A Worrying Development For Trident – Analysis

May 26, 2011

A Henry Jackson Society publication citing the Trident Commission as “cause for concern” over the future of the Trident replacement decision.

Click below to read the full article:

13) It will be too late to halt Trident’s replacement if we don’t talk now

February 23, 2011

Britain’s nuclear weapons strategy will be subjected to unprecedented independent scrutiny by a group of senior defence, diplomatic, scientific and political figures who have come together to form BASIC’s Trident Commission. BASIC has set up this independent, cross-party commission to examine the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons policy and the issue of Trident renewal. The Commission will report on evidence received in early 2012.

BASIC is mentioned in this commentary by Dr. Ian Davis the director ofNATO Watch and former executive director of BASIC.

14) BASIC forms UK Trident Commission

February 14, 2011

The Ploughshares Fund reported the launch of BASIC Trident Commission on their website. Ploughshares is one of the Commission’s main funders. Click below for more details:

15) Coalition Split on post-Trident nuclear deterrent

February 14, 2011

Ian Kearns, BASIC’s research director, said he recently asked a government official what studies had been made into how long it would take and what it would cost to reconstitute the Trident deterrent if it were withdrawn from active deployment.
The answer was none. Harvey called the omission “extraordinary”. Click below for more details:

16) UK defence minister: case for Trident is ‘thin’

February 10, 2011

Julian Borger blogged in The Guardian on the surprise revelation at the Trident Commission launch. Click below for more details:

17) Nuclear weapons case to be examined by Commission

February 9, 2011

Richard Norton-Taylor reported in The Guardian on the eve of the Trident Commission launch. Click below for more details:

TalkWorks Videos

Several of the BASIC Trident Commissioners were featured in a series of videos discussing prospects for nuclear disarmament by TalkWorks between 2009-2011. Click the links below to watch the videos and hear what the Commissioners had to say.

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