Letter: Labour clings to outmoded nuclear weapons strategy

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The Independent Online
Sir: Stephen Goodwin reports (18 October) that Labour's defence spokesperson told the annual defence estimates debate that the next Labour government would deploy Trident. He also rightly reports that the Labour Campaign Group has tabled a motion demonstrating, among other things, that the estimated lifetime deployment cost of Trident - when refit, replacement and decommissioning are included - is more than pounds 33bn.

Two pages later, Labour's defence spokesman is quoted by your science correspondent that 'safety is lax at Aldermaston', where the nuclear warheads for Trident are made, in the account of the Health & Safety Executive's critical report on the Atomic Weapons Establishment's bomb production plants.

There is an obvious irony in continuing with a Trident weapons programme that is highly dangerous in production and storage, even if not used in anger. In a speech by Llew Smith, Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent, in the defence estimates debate on Monday night, he emphasised that apart from the pounds 33bn lifetime cost, the manufacture of missiles and submarines for Trident is already costing the earth.

Where uranium is mined, people's lives have been destroyed by local radiological pollution; there is still contamination from the atmospheric and underground testing of warheads; and cancers have been caused by the production and processing of nuclear explosives at sites such as Sellafield and Aldermaston.

Even North Korea has now been pursuaded by strong US pressure that its plan to defend itself with nuclear weapons was fundamentally misguided, and has abandoned its programme.

If a hard-line Stalinist regime can abjure nuclear weapons, could Labour's new Shadow Cabinet consider it might be a modern approach for Britain, too?

Yours sincerely, DAVID LOWRY Stoneleigh, Surrey 19 October