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Trident renewal an "expensive folly" says former Labour candidate

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Jonny Roberts blasts spiralling costs of the nuclear deterrent

A Labour politician based in Newbury has called the spiralling costs of replacing the ageing Trident nuclear deterrent “an expensive folly”.

Jonny Roberts, who stood for the Newbury parliamentary seat in May, made the comments after a parliamentary report revealed this week that the cost of replacing Trident had risen to £31bn, higher than previous estimates of £25bn.

A vote launched by the SNP to scrap the country’s nuclear deterrent altogether was overwhelmingly defeated in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Mr Roberts told the Newbury Weekly News: “I am convinced that its like-for-like replacement is an expensive folly

“I think we should make significant efforts to lead the way on nuclear disarmament and could do so with at least a limited replacement – for example two submarines instead of four, or even pooling our nuclear resources with our NATO ally France so as to allow both nations to significantly disarm.

“But I would not be opposed to unilateral disarmament as I really don’t think the weapons will ever be used.

“I don’t think they act as a proper deterrent.

“The enormous finances involved – likely to be £40bn capital and at least £1.5bn a year in operational costs – could be far better spent on reducing our national debt, building new schools and infrastructure that will actually get used.

“The year-on-year operational costs alone would be enough to reverse nearly all Sure Start children’s centre closures nationally.”

But Newbury’s Conservative MP Richard Benyon said of the spiralling costs: “I wish we lived in a world where nuclear weapons were not necessary but unfortunately they are.

“I hope we can go forward and renew our nuclear deterrent at a cost we can afford.

“Of course it is a world in which costs they can overrun, but I don’t think it’s a price that is too high because these are very important issues for our future security.”

Answering whether in light of £10.6m cuts to be made to local services it really was a price worth paying, he said: “There is nothing more important than keeping our people safe.”

He added that AWE – which manufactures the country’s nuclear weapons at Aldermaston and Burghfield – was his constituents’ largest employer and he wanted to ensure that the facility’s future remained secure.

Answering concerns about the organisation which recently announced the loss of 500 members of staff, an AWE spokesperson said: “Defence policy is a matter for the Ministry of Defence.

“Like any other company, AWE must keep its costs and staffing requirements under regular review to ensure it continues to deliver effectively and efficiently.

“The recent reductions have been carefully considered to ensure the core programme and AWE’s operational safety and security remain unaffected.

“AWE remains committed to enhancing its science, engineering and technology expertise and targeted recruitment activity continues in these areas.”

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