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
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
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.