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Trident talks ‘should address ethics’

19 July 2013

JUST PEACE PILGRIMAGE

Just walk: members of the Justice Peace Pilgrimage, who set off from Iona on 19 May, are due to arrive in Westminster today. They will deliver a declaration to the Prime Minister, urging the Government to abandon the Trident nuclear-missile system. www.justpeacepilgrimage.com

Just walk: members of the Justice Peace Pilgrimage, who set off from Iona on 19 May, are due to arrive in Westminster today. They will deliver a declaration to the Prime Minister, urging the Government to abandon the Trident nuclear-missile system. www.justpeacepilgrimage.com

THE Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, has criticised a government review of the alternatives to the Trident nuclear-weapons system for not addressing the ethical basis of nuclear weapons.

The Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said on Tuesday that the Trident Alternatives Review, which has been published by the Cabinet Office, showed that there were "credible alternatives" to Trident which did not compromise national security. The Conservatives and Labour, however, have expressed scepticism about replacing Trident. The review will be debated in Parliament before a final decision is made in 2016 on whether it should be replaced.

Bishop Platten, who is the lead bishop on defence and security issues, said on Tuesday: "The Church has consistently held that, since nuclear weapons belong by virtue of their terrifying power in a different category from any other weapons system, it is important to ask what kind of security they offer us, and in what circumstances, if any, their use or threat of use can be ethically justified. Sadly, the Government's review does not address these a priori questions."

Bishop Platten went on to say that, during the debate that would follow the publication of the review, the Government would need "to demonstrate more convincingly than it has to date how even a minimum nuclear deterrence, however that is defined, would add to the security of the UK, and to the UK's ability to act effectively in the service of peace, justice, and prosperity in the wider world".

Bishop Platten did say, however, that the Government "should be congratulated for undertaking such a far-reaching and thorough review of the alternatives available to Trident, and for making its analysis available to the wider public for the first time." Such transparency, he said, was "vital if we are to have a more informed public debate about what our nuclear weapons are for, and how they should be deployed".

A submission by the Mission and Public Affairs Council in 2007, in response to a White Paper on "The Future of the UK's Nuclear Deterrent", criticised the then Government's lack of transparency about its reasons for retaining Trident.

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said that a decision to renew Trident would be "scandalous", and that nuclear capability for the UK was no longer appropriate: "Morally, we can't argue for non proliferation and against possession of nuclear weapons in other countries, such as Iran and North Korea, if we continue to invest in our own. As a role model for other countries, I feel it does immense damage to building peace and security in other political and economic contexts.

"Strategically, nuclear capability no longer seems to be an appropriate way of ensuring security or equipping our military forces to function effectively. The very existence of nuclear weapons as a defence against an unknown future threat is likely to increase a culture of demand for nuclear weapons across the world rather than reduce it.

"Financially, at a time when we're all being called on to tighten our belts and are affected by severe cuts in local government, health and education I think it would be scandalous to spend £20bn on Trident's renewal."

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, said on Wednesday: "The approach at the moment to considering our national budget cannot be to treat the Trident renewal as beyond scrutiny, especially as it is a 50- or 60-year commitment."

Dr Smith was scheduled to meet and wash the feet of pilgrims on the Justice Peace Pilgrimage when they passed through St Albans on the way to London yesterday.

The Trident Alternatives Review can be read here.

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