Andy McSmith's Diary: Trident fleet will cost us billions, but exactly who is it supposed to keep at bay? - UK Politics - UK - The Independent

Andy McSmith's Diary: Trident fleet will cost us billions, but exactly who is it supposed to keep at bay?

 

While politicians agonise over the size of the Government’s debt, one of the most expensive publicly funded projects in recent years is quietly getting under way.

A series of written questions from that old Labour troublemaker Paul Flynn has extracted details from the Ministry of Defence about how much it is costing, so far, to replace the UK’s Trident fleet. The Defence Minister, Philip Dunne, has given a list of 42 contracts that have already been awarded. The biggest is the design contract won by BAE Systems, worth just under £672m. Together, if I have added them up correctly, they come to £1,391,233,027.

The Government expects the final bill to come somewhere between £15bn and £20bn. Greenpeace suspects the total will be around £34bn. But to put that £1.4bn committed so far in context, that is three times what the Government expects to save from its highly unpopular “bedroom tax”, or more than seven times what the MoD paid in redundancies over three years as it rid itself of 11,000 of its employees, many of them Afghanistan veterans.

Curiously, Trident created more controversy 30 years ago when Margaret Thatcher first acquired it, although back then people at least knew what it was for. Its purpose was to deter the USSR from invading the UK. Now the Government is spending billions on renewing it, with barely a murmur of dissent, and when no one can say whom it is supposed to deter or what it is supposed to deter them from doing.

A rose by any other name

Chuka Umunna, shadow Business Secretary, handled himself with confidence in the notoriously difficult forum of a Commons press gallery lunch, but floundered momentarily when asked if he thought of himself as a socialist.

“I mean, labels are labels,” he replied. “You can call me a democratic socialist, a social democrat – I don’t think my constituents care about that. What they care about is what your values are.”

That is not quite in tune with what Ed Miliband said when he was harangued in a Brighton street last September about when he was going to bring back socialism. “That’s what we are doing, sir,” the Labour leader replied.

Leave Blackadder bishop be

Tessa Munt, the Lib Dem MP for Wells, has been campaigning furiously against the Church Commissioners’ decision to move the Bishop of Bath and Wells out of his flat in the magnificent 800-year-old palace in the middle of town. Sir Tony Baldry, the Commissioners’ parliamentary representative, insists it is being done to give the bishop and his family more privacy. Ms Munt suspects that it is because the palace costs so much to maintain.

This is a serious matter, and yet some of us only have to hear the words “Bishop of Bath and Wells” to conjure up an image of a fiery-faced degenerate on Blackadder advancing with the intention of shoving a red hot poker up the eponymous hero’s bottom. Even David Cameron, when tackled by Ms Munt, was moved to say: “I shall try to keep the image of Blackadder out of my mind.”

Smoke on the water?

There was an under-reported moment from the debate in the House of Lords over whether to ban smoking in private vehicles in the presence of children. Lord Scott of Foscote, a 79-year-old retired judge, inquired: “Does ‘private vehicle’ include a motor boat? One drives a motor boat.” The answer was no.

Bonus numbers

After all the bad publicity over bankers’ bonuses, MPs have come down hard on bonus-earning civil servants. In the Home Office, two out of every five pocketed a bonus in 2012-13; that is 11,672 bonuses, costing £6.5m. But the average works out at £559, and most were less than £500.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs committee, described the practice as “irresponsible”. This is one of Mr Vaz’s favourite words. He has applied it to the security firm G4S, to Nigel Farage, and to the Derby firm Simply Drinks for selling a product called Simply Cocaine, among others. So the Home Office officials need not feel too alone.

News
Residents of James Turner Street such as White Dee will have a chance to share their experiences of benefits on a Channel 4 spin-off show
peopleBenefits Street star says mixed-race children were subjected to trolling
Sport
Angel Di Maria
Football
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
film
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
News
newsIn short, yes
Extras
indybest
News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
Life and Style
Jourdan Dunn gave TopShop’s Unique show some added glamour at London Fashion Week
fashion week
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Job opportunity for a nursery nurse...

McAfee Security Engineer

£42000 - £48000 per annum + Site allowance: Ashdown Group: McAfee EPO Speciali...

English Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Experience...

Higher Level Teaching Assistants in Bradford and West Leeds

£65 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are currently seeking Higher L...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories