Britain will be tied to the US in world affairs for "decades to come" if Tony Blair pushes ahead with a decision to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system, his former cabinet colleague Clare Short has warned.
The former international development secretary was speaking at a meeting in the Commons at the launch of a campaign to stop the UK from committing itself to developing a new generation of nuclear weapons when Trident becomes obsolete. She said: "Replacing Trident will tie UK foreign policy to US policy for decades to come. It would prevent the UK from acting with others on global warming, poverty and conflict, and perpetuate our role as US poodle."
Although Trident's life could extend another 20 years, Mr Blair has insisted that a decision on whether to replace it must be made in the current parliament, because of the time involved in developing new nuclear weapons.
He has called for a consultation on the future of Britain's deterrent. But the budget for the Atomic Weapons Establishment, at Aldermaston, has been doubled to £1.5bn over the next three years, prompting suspicions that a decision to develop new weapons has been made. Officially, the increased spending is to make sure Trident is kept up to date.
Michael Meacher, the former environment minister, said: "It is highly questionable whether a non-independent British nuclear weapon still serves any useful purpose. "Replacing Trident would come at an estimated cost of £15bn to £25bn; surely this could be better spent elsewhere."