West Berkshire's largest employer was given a welcome boost last night [Monday] after Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of renewing the Government's controversial nuclear deterrent program.
MP's voted 472 to 117 in favour of renewing the UK's Trident nuclear submarines at a cost estimated by the Government to be £31bn but as high as £205bn by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
The nuclear weapons are manufactured at two sites at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and Burghfield, employing some 5,509 people.
Speaking at yesterday’s parliamentary vote Newbury MP Richard Benyon spoke in support of renewing the ageing system in spite of the cost.
He told the Commons: "The point is that the nuclear deterrent is my constituency’s largest employer, as it brings many advantages, not least to the supply chain of 275 local companies and 1,500 supply chain organisations nationally.
“Add to that its role in advising the Government on counter-terrorism; the effect it has on nuclear threat reduction, on forensics – not least in the recent Litvinenko inquiry – and on non-proliferation; its second to none apprenticeship scheme; and its academic collaboration with the Orion laser.
“None of that would matter one jot if the decision we were taking today was wrong. The decision we are taking today is right.”
Answering questions from fellow MPs he said: “The truth is that the nuclear deterrent has saved lives.
“This is a point that has not been made enough tonight – over the past few decades, because aggressors have been deterred.
“We have to ask ourselves how predictable future conflicts are. The leader of the SNP said that we are talking about deterrence today.
“We are not; we are talking about deterrence for 20 years, 30 years or 40 years. The SNP may have a crystal ball, and SNP members may be able to say that there will be no threat to us in that time.
“I do not have a crystal ball, however, and I want to ensure the protection of future generations in this country.”
The Newbury Green Party, however, reacted with disappointment to the news and called the project “ruinously expensive”.
Party spokesperson David Marsh said: “The threat today comes from terrorism and cyber-attacks. The UK’s ‘independent nuclear deterrent’ does not deter our enemies. Nor is it independent.
“The Americans have the final say-so on whether we could ever use them. So it could be President Donald Trump with his finger on Britain’s nuclear trigger. How safe should that make use feel?
“No one working for the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston or Burghfield need lose their job if Trident were not replaced.
“Unlike those who simply abandon steel and other workers to their fate when their industry changes the Green Party believes in creating new job opportunities.”