“Costly” nuclear weapons are “useless and irrelevant” against the two major global crises we currently face and therefore the world’s “new normal” needs to be nuclear-weapon-free, an international Catholic peace movement has said.
Pax Christi UK has insisted that “now is the time to free ourselves from the moral and economic burden of nuclear weapons”, which have no part to play in the two major catas- trophes facing the globe – the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change.
The call comes as the Commons Public Accounts Committee accused the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of an ‘unacceptable’ failure to learn from past errors after a series of ‘avoidable mistakes’ resulted in a huge increase in costs to the taxpayer.
The committee said a series of key projects to upgrade the infrastructure which supports Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent were running years behind schedule and more than £1 billion over budget.
The MoD told the committee that it “immensely regrets” the money lost but warned that costs could continue to increase.
A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) found the three programmes to upgrade ageing facilities in the Defence Nuclear Enterprise – originally put at £2.5 billion – were facing cost overruns of £1.35 billion with delays between 1.7 and 6.3 years.
Theresa Alessandro, director of Pax Christi UK, said the new report shows that “British nuclear weapons are proving to be even more costly than expected at a time when public money is under unprecedented pressure”.
In addition, such highly-expensive and deadly weapons are pointless in the battle against the two biggest threats the world is currently facing.
“We are experiencing first-hand a crisis for which nuclear weapons are useless and irrelevant. We know they have no positive part to play in slowing climate change either,” Ms Alessandro told The Catholic Universe.
“Now is the time to free ourselves from the moral and economic burden of nuclear weapons.”
She recalled how even before the pandemic, the Archbishop of Liverpool, Malcolm McMahon, president of the British section of Pax Christi, called on the Government “to sign the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and be part of a future built on just international relationships and the common good of all humanity”.
Acknowledging that there may be some concern over potential job losses, Ms Alessandro pointed out how the current crisis has proven that “industry can diversify and workers can use their skills for the common good instead”.
“For Pax Christi, the ‘new normal’ is a world without nuclear weapons,” she added.
In its report concerning the MoD, the Commons Public Accounts Committee said: ‘It is unacceptable that the department in other areas has repeated past mistakes, and has failed to learn lessons from elsewhere.
‘The department cannot explain why its leadership has not ensured that it learned from these experiences.’
Catholic MP and committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said: “To utterly fail to learn from mistakes over decades, to spectacularly repeat the same mistakes at huge cost to the taxpayer – and at huge cost to confidence in our defence capabilities – is completely unacceptable.”
The three projects named in the NAO report are: Project Mensa, which was to construct a new nuclear warhead assembly in Burghfield; the building of a new core production capability at the Rolls Royce site at Raynesway to produce nuclear reactor core designs; and the primary build facility at the BAE Systems shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness where the new Dreadnought class submarines to carry the Trident nuclear missiles will be built.
The NAO said the MoD was con- tinuing to repeat mistakes made in the last cycle of investment in the nu- clear enterprise in the 1980s and 1990s while failing to learn from experiences in the civil sector or from overseas.
Pax Christi’s call came as peace campaigners criticised the decision to transport nuclear warheads from the south of England to Scotland during the pandemic.
A convoy carrying the weapons is understood to have left the Atomic Weapons Establishment site at Burghfield, Berkshire, on 13th May and arrived at the storage facility at the Royal Naval Armaments Depot Coulport in Argyll and Bute that evening.
Nukewatch UK claims the convoy would have involved at least 50 personnel, including a crew change, and said it travelled along the M6 and on the M8 through Glasgow city centre.
Jane Tallents of Nukewatch UK said: “We never think this is essential travel and certainly at the moment there is no justification for putting us at further risk of potentially overwhelming the NHS if there was an accident.”
She also voiced fears over the movement of workers who could potentially be carrying coronavirus.
She added: “It is never right to possess and deploy nuclear weapons and transport them on public roads. Doing it now is completely irresponsible.”
Picture: File photo dated 20/01/16 of vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant (front right), one of the UK’s four nuclear warhead-carrying submarines. (Danny Lawson/PA).