Together in Britain and Ireland have produced a
Briefing paper. go to ctbi.org.uk and follow the ‘Trident’ link
from the Churches
1. Free Churches and Church of England.
The leaders of the Baptist, Methodist and United
Reformed Churches have condemned the plans to spend
up to £20 billion for replacement submarines
for Trident missiles.
Archbishop Rowan Williams has said he is "disturbed" by
the proposals and questioned whether they were
truly compatible with Britain's obligations under
its various non-proliferation treaties. Dr Williams
also questioned the cost of the programme against
a background of reductions that were putting acute
pressure on the armed services.
The Prime Minister's plans to spend up to £20
billion on replacement submarines for Trident missiles
must be open to review, the Archbishop of Canterbury
has said. And leaders of the Baptist, Methodist
and United Reformed Churches have already condemned
the plans. Archbishop Rowan Williams said he was
'disturbed' by the proposals and questioned whether
they were truly compatible with Britain's obligations
under its various non-proliferation treaties. 'And
if it is not in breach, what message does the programme
give?' he asked. Dr Williams also questioned the
cost of the programme against a background of reductions
that were putting acute pressure on the armed services.
The free church leaders were even more direct,
urging the Government to 'rid the world of weapons
of mass destruction' and saying Trident 'would
send the wrong message to aspiring nuclear powers'.
Source for summary: Moravian Messenger Jan 2007,
2. Catholic Bishops Call on UK Government
to Set the Example by Decommissioning Nuclear Weapons
The very existence of nuclear weapons has always
posed grave moral questions. Their uniquely destructive
power means that they belong in a different category
from any other weapons; this has always been recognised
in the particular attention with which they have
been regarded by the Holy See and by our own Bishops?
Conference. In his World Day of Peace message for
2006, Pope Benedict XVI, in pressing for progressive
and concerted nuclear disarmament, argues powerfully
that the retention of nuclear weapons does not
enhance the security of their possessors or the
peace of the world.
The United Kingdom is now at a moral and strategic
crossroads. Its present nuclear-weapon capability
is not expected to be sustainable beyond the early
2020s without major new investment in renewal or
replacement. Initial decisions about its continuance
need to be taken within the lifetime of the present
Parliament, which could extend to 2010.
The Church has always been clear in its teaching
about the vital necessity for eventual total nuclear
disarmament. Our judgement is that, by decommissioning
its nuclear weapons, the UK now has a unique opportunity
to offer the international community an approach
to security and legitimate self-defence without
the unconscionable threat of nuclear destruction.
At the same time it could give a new impetus to
the wider process towards total nuclear disarmament.
We recognise the Government's grave responsibilities
in these matters of security, both for our countries
and the wider world. We urge the government to
take a long-term view and act with courageous leadership
by seeking to make this breakthrough towards total
For further information, please
contact the CCN
t. 020 7901 4800 e. email@example.com
3. A Quaker view
Submission to Defence Select Committee on the future
1.1 The Religious Society of Friends in Britain
is a religious denomination with 16,000 members
in 470 worshipping communities. We are committed
to working for peaceful and effective responses
to violence and social injustice.
1.2 We welcome the opportunity of submitting evidence
to the Defence Select Committee on the Future of
Trident but are concerned at the lack of time available
for preparing a submission on an issue of such
gravity. A call for evidence, allowing less than
a month for preparation, especially when coinciding
with the Christmas recess, provides inadequate
time for the "comprehensive analysis" of
the issues that responsible Government requires.
Such haste seems unwarranted in the context of
weapons that "will start to leave service
in the early 2020s."
1.3 The position of the Religious Society of Friends
on issues of peace and disarmament is well known.
We are, however, realists. While we continue to
work towards our vision of a peaceful world, we
know the world will not be freed of weapons of
war in any short period. We are aware that the
UK government, supported by the majority of the
population, will feel obliged to retain at least
limited military forces for the foreseeable future.
1.4 We would advocate, however, that these forces
should be strictly defensive, tailored essentially
towards peace-keeping activities. The Religious
Society of Friends does not believe that nuclear
weapons can possibly be seen in this light. They
cannot be regarded as a mere defensive deterrent
because their maintenance implies at least a conditional
willingness to use them. If it did not they would
not be a deterrent.
1.5 Use of such weapons, even in extreme circumstances,
would be so heavily disproportionate to anything
less than actual nuclear attack on this country
as to be unthinkable. Actual nuclear attack would
be so devastating that retaliation in kind could
serve no purpose and only compound the horror.
1.6 We affirm the comments of the Archbishop of
Canterbury that " ? these are still weapons
that are intrinsically indiscriminate in their
lethal effects, and their long-term impact on a
whole physical environment would be horrendous." We
welcome and affirm the clear position of the Church
and Society Council of the Church of Scotland that
the UK should relinquish its nuclear weapons.
1.7 We do not consider that the White Paper amounts
to "a careful review of all the issues and
options" that is referred to in its introduction.
We ask the Government to learn from the defects
of Parliamentary accountability in relation to
the Chevaline programme and to provide for rigorous,
transparent and accountable public debate.
1.8 We urge the Government, MPs and members of
the electorate to which the government is accountable,
to respond to the grave ethical questions that
Dr Williams has raised regarding the morality,
legality, and the strategic requirement for nuclear
weapons. We hope that the Defence Select Committee
will require the Secretary of State for Defence
to respond to these questions in detail.
2.1 The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
has a long history of seeking peaceful solutions
to intractable political problems. We are committed
to an understanding of security that recognisesthe
inherent, absolute worth of every person. Our commitment
to disarmament is rooted in a Christian understanding
of hope that is incompatible with a willingness
to use weapons of mass destruction. We are unequivocally
opposed to the possession of nuclear weapons and
cannot envisage any context in which the use of
nuclear weapons could be justified. We unite with
the increasing concern felt among the Churches
regarding Britain's maintenance of a nuclear weapons
system. We note the clear position of the Church
of Scotland in opposition to Trident and note that
many who had previously supported a concept of
deterrence now no longer consider that the arguments
are sufficient to justify the UK's maintenance
of nuclear weapons.
3.1 The Non Proliferation Treaty, to which the
UK is a signatory, essentially requires that nuclear
weapons states should take steps towards disarmament
in return for those states that do no have nuclear
weapons undertaking not to develop them. Article
VI includes the provision that "Parties to
the Treaty undertake to pursue negotiations in
good faith on effective measures to cessation of
the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear
disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete
disarmament under strict and effective control." We
consider that the replacement of Trident is incompatible
with these obligations. A replacement programme
sends the unedifying message that such weapons
systems are morally acceptable. It would encourage
other States to develop these weapons systems and
undermine a rules' based system that is at the
heart of the international rule of law. We ask
the Secretary of State to address both the questions
of whether its programme is in breach of the letter
and spirit of NPT obligations and the following
I. Nuclear weapons could never be used within the
jus in bellum requirements of necessity and proportionality.
II. The Government has failed to specify scenarios
in which the use of nuclear weapons could comply
with International Humanitarian Law prohibitions
on indiscriminate attacks.
III. Article VI is a pivotal provision of the Non
Proliferation Treaty such that a breach of the
provision would amount to a breach of the Treaty.
Any broadening of the scope of deterrence policy
would amount to a breach of Article VI and consequently
of the Treaty itself. The Government proposes the
following steps to broaden deterrence policy: deterrence
against non-nuclear attack; use as an insurance
system against unspecified future threats; enhancement
of targeting policy. The Government proposals would
consequently breach the Non Proliferation Treaty.
4 Strategic requirement
We note that the White Paper does not consider
the impact that renewing nuclear weapons could
have on nuclear proliferation. A decision to enhance
nuclear weapons would, in our opinion, undermine
the UK's opposition to access to nuclear weapons
by other states. We note also that the White Paper
does not address the issue of proportionality and
necessity. The White Paper does not contain an
adequate analysis and assessment of what the Government
considers are current threats requiring the maintenance
of a nuclear weapons system. It is the responsibility
of a democratic Government to respond to the arguments
and views of those with whom it disagrees. The
essence of the Government case for maintaining
nuclear weapons appears to be that "on our
current analysis, we cannot rule out the risk either
that a major direct threat to the UK's vital interest
will re-emerge or that new states will emerge that
possess a more limited nuclear capability, but
one that could pose a grave threat to our vital
interests." An insurance system against unspecified
threats does not amount to a compelling case for "a
strategic requirement," particularly when
the UK's possession of nuclear weapons would only
compound such uncertainty. We unite with the submission
of the Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Church
that the logic supporting the use of nuclear weapons
to insure against future threats would seem to
lead us inevitably down the road to nuclear proliferation.
We consider it scandalous that while resources
can be found for a nuclear weapons' system costing
tens of billions of pounds the Government is still
not able to meet the UN target of spending 0.7%
of GNP on international development. A small fraction
of the resources needed to maintain weapons of
mass destruction could transform the lives of millions
in the developing world and help to build long-term
sustainable security. Resources in the UK could
be spent on hospitals, schools and creating economic
opportunities for the young and deprived. Within
armed forces expenditure, the resources spent onnuclear
weapons could be used to develop armed forces suitable
for a peace-keeping role.
We consider that the decision to replace the Trident
Nuclear Weapons system is wrong in principle and
that the process of decision-making has been flawed.
We urge the Defence Select Committee to ensure
that the decision to renew Trident is reconsidered
in a calm and thoughtful environment that engages
with the ethical issues raised by the full spectrum
of civil society, Churches and faith communities.
The White Paper should be the starting point for
a wide ranging public debate on our future security
needs and should not be used as a means of closing
down political debate.
Parliamentary Liaison Secretary, QPSW