UK government plans to spend £100bn on the Trident nuclear system while saying there's no alternative to cuts in welfare services
Source: Morning Star
WE’RE heading into another five years of Tory cuts. No doubt we’ll hear the same tired old lie — there isn’t enough money to go round. But when it comes to nuclear weapons and war they can always find the cash because the reality is there’s plenty of money — it’s a question of who is making the decisions about what it is spent on.
No doubt the Tories will continue to want to spend £100 billion on the militarily useless nuclear weapons system Trident. But the majority of the population doesn’t want it, and no doubt all of us in the anti-austerity movement would rather the money was spent on something else. And given the condition of our social and public services it’s hardly surprising.
As the government continues its redistribution of wealth from the poor and working people to the super-rich, we are all worse off and the very fabric of our decent society is being destroyed.
There are many areas where this money needs urgently to be spent to sustain the wellbeing of the population. Hundreds of thousands of people now rely on foodbanks, a damning indictment of the government’s priorities. In a letter to the British Medical Journal in 2013, a group of health experts warned that food poverty should be seen as a “public health emergency.” Instead of weapons of mass destruction, we need sustainable, properly paid jobs. No-one should go hungry in one of the richest countries in the world.
The increasing number of people in poverty follows drastic cuts in the government’s welfare payments. The changes in repayable crisis loans, increased conditionality on benefit payments and reassessments are just some of the measures which have affected low-income families. The bedroom tax and the introduction of universal credit will affect many more.
There are 3.5 million children growing up in poverty today, including in households where adults are working. Too many people are trapped in part-time work or earning the minimum wage, which is not high enough. The cost of living is rising far higher than wages and welfare payments. And cancelling Trident replacement would save the government 20 times more money than can be saved by the tax credit reforms.
Cold weather kills around 20,000 people in the UK each year. Thousands more suffer in cold homes as they can’t afford to turn on the heating. And yet the government is reducing its spending on fuel poverty. The campaigning group Energy Bill Revolution is calling for a new energy efficiency programme which could remove the vast majority of fuel-poor households from fuel poverty. Some £4 billion a year is needed to adapt 600,000 homes a year and £100bn would pay to insulate over 15 million households. This investment would also create jobs as well as ending fuel poverty and bringing down energy bills.
And investment in key sectors can create employment as well as addressing important issues such as climate change. This is a serious problem with potentially devastating consequences.
Britain is committed to reducing its carbon emissions to avoid dangerous climate change. Investing in energy efficiency measures and developing renewable energy are the best ways to do this. Producing our own energy from solar, wind and hydro sources also increases our energy security and creates jobs for thousands of workers.
Britain has more than enough wind and tidal power to meet our energy needs, but investment is needed. The average cost of a 1MW capacity wind turbine is £1m. Some 100,000 wind turbines could be built if the money spent on replacing Trident was invested in renewable energy. This is enough to power all the households in Britain, as well as generating some excess energy which could be exported for profit. Or at an average cost of £6,500 to install per household, solar panels produce clean energy and bring bills down.
One-hundred billion could pay for 15 million households to have solar panels fitted — almost 60 per cent of all households in the UK. It is estimated that having solar panels fitted saves the average household £800 a year. The renewable energy sector could potentially employ highly skilled engineers who would otherwise be working on Trident replacement.
Instead of investing in a weapon of mass destruction, the government could spend the money on developing renewable energy, making Britain a world leader in this new technology. Whatever your preference for redirecting the money wasted on Trident, this is the moment to say we want Trident scrapped.
We have a new parliament, among which many reject Trident and its replacement, but we have to increase that opposition, to defeat this government’s new nuclear plans.
Kate Hudson is general secretary of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.