By Oliver Milne
UK government plans for a multi-billion-pound replacement of Trident nuclear warheads have been confirmed – days after it was embarrassingly revealed by the US.
But the decision has been slammed by anti-nuclear campaigners who say that any decision to upgrade Britain’s nuclear tech should have been debated by MPs.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced on Tuesday that the government had agreed to replace its existing warheads with the new design – which will git in both the old Vanguard and new Dreadnought class submarines.
Last week, the Pentagon revealed details of the project before MPs were informed or ministers made an official announcement.
It emerged when a US commander told a US committee of the plans.
In a written statement to Parliament, Mr Wallace said: “To ensure the government maintains an effective deterrent throughout the commission of the Dreadnought Class ballistic missile submarine we are replacing our existing nuclear warhead to respond to future threats and the security environment.”
He added that the Ministry of Defence would “continue to work closely with the US” to ensure that the new warhead remained compatible with the Trident Strategic Weapon System.
But CND general secretary Kate Hudson slammed the move accused the government of breaking its promise.
Ms Hudson said: “This statement confirms that the government has broken the promise to MPs that the decision to build nuclear warheads would be taken by parliament. Instead, this deal has been agreed in secret with the United States, and the government has admitted it only after Pentagon officials let the cat of the bag.
“It seems that the US/UK special nuclear relationship now supersedes parliamentary scrutiny, accountability and decision-making. This is a dangerous and anti-democratic development and must be rolled back.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed officials were working towards replacing the warheads after the admiral’s testimony to a senate hearing surfaced on Sunday.
US Strategic Command commander Admiral Charles Richard wrote in a statement first reported by the Observer that a replacement warhead called W93 or Mk7 was needed in the States.
He added: “This effort will also support a parallel replacement warhead programme in the United Kingdom whose nuclear deterrent plays an absolutely vital role in Nato’s overall defence posture.”
The statement was made last week. It is understood that the Government has been unable to find the time to inform Parliament, which is in recess, but an official announcement will be made shortly.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has long backed the proposed replacement and the Conservatives committed to renewing the deterrent ahead of the election.
Oliver Milne has been a Daily Mirror reporter since 2016 and works with the political team to cover stories including Labour and Brexit.
This article was published on February 26 by the Mirror.