WEST Berkshire’s largest employer has been given a shot in the arm after the front-runner to become the next PM called for an immediate renewal of the country’s nuclear deterrent Trident.
Nuclear bomb manufacturer the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) employs some 5,509 people at Aldermaston and Burghfield.
Setting out her stall on Tuesday, Maidenhead MP and candidate in the Prime Minsterial race Theresa May said it would be “sheer madness” to abandon the country’s nuclear deterrent Trident.
She said: “There is no room for compromise, and no room for cheese paring.
“We need a full fleet of four submarines, capable between them of providing what the military call ‘continuous at sea deterrence’, or permanent, around-the-clock cover.
“Doing so will send an important message that, as Britain leaves the European Union, we remain committed to working alongside our Nato allies and playing our full role in the world.
“That is what I know the Prime Minister and Micheal Fallon, the Defence Secretary, will be telling our allies when they attend the Warsaw summit this week.”
She proposed a vote before the summer recess on renewing Trident and argued “we should get on with getting it built”.
AWE declined to comment when approached, but the MP for Newbury said he was in full support of Mrs May’s comments.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News, Richard Benyon said that he too wanted a vote as soon as possible and added: “What it means locally is certainty.
“The longer no vote is decided and delayed the more people who are working at places like AWE might think this may be an opportunity to move into the commercial field.
“I want to keep employees at AWE to ensure our national security.”
He said that ever using the weapons was “too appalling to contemplate” but that nonetheless the deterrent was effective and worth the cost of replacement, estimated to be roughly £205bn.
He said: “It is a deterrent and you only deter if you have the will to use them. They are weapons of mass destruction and we don’t hide from that.
“They are being used every single day; that is the point of deterrents. They are being used every single day in a deterrent capacity.
“I can’t see them being deployed, of course that would be a massive failure in international diplomacy.”
Peter Burt of the Reading-based Nuclear Information Service was more critical of the proposed renewal and questioned the point of Trident altogether.
He said: “As a member of the National Security Council, Theresa May is well aware that the immediate security challenges that the UK faces cannot be addressed by nuclear weapons.
“The country faces real and present threats from international extremism, cyber-attack and an economic slump, none of which Trident has done anything to deter.
“The Government has far more important and urgent matters to deal with right now than debating an outdated Cold War weapons system that slipped four years behind schedule and increased in price by 50 per cent since the replacement decision was announced in 2007.
“The Trident programme grows less and less viable and less and less relevant by the day, and, if she becomes Prime Minister, I hope Mrs May will take a long hard look at the programme to see whether we really need it and whether we can really afford it.”
No date has yet been set for a parliamentary vote on renewing Trident.