We know this is a self-imposed political agenda.
From what we know of the Chancellor’s budget announcements so far, we don’t expect he will tackle head-on the massive problems Britain faces with health and social care, the environment, education, growing inequality and economic insecurity.
But we know this is a self-imposed political agenda. Here I set out a positive vision in a set of alternative budget announcements.
The government should announce today that it will cancel the planned replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons programme, and release a wave of investment to the tune of £205 billion – the total cost of Trident - over the years to come. The time has passed for this out-dated, irrelevant, and overly-priced system of the Cold-War era, and the time has come for investing in people instead.
This major announcement could support the end of austerity and bring to a close the assault on the people of this country who have been paying for an economic crisis not of their making.
The £31 billion saved from not manufacturing four successor Trident submarines could be used to cancel the £3.5 billion in cuts planned for this year, and raise public sector pay in line with inflation at an estimated cost of £4 billion per year for the next two years.
The £31 billion cost of the four successor submarines is the tip of the iceberg. Beyond submarine manufacture, a decision to cancel Trident replacement will offer an extra £174 billion in the medium to long-term.
Training and employment
For those whose jobs are currently dependent on Trident, and for those seeking to expand their skills in new and innovative technologies, the Government should establish a Defence Diversification Agency.
This agency will take the many talents of those who already work in the defence industries, and offer them the opportunity to develop and adapt their skills to be deployed across a range of industries, including aerospace, renewables, shipbuilding, mechanical and electrical design, and Information Technology.
This will also open many opportunities for young people seeking training and employment in the technologies of the future.
This agency, coupled with a massive increase in the Government’s expenditure on research and development could form part of the building blocks for creating job sustainability well into the future.
There are also many areas of our society where investment will bring considerable economic returns, and the saving from Trident replacement could offer sustainable and balanced investment in these areas in the years to come.
On housing, the government could invest £3 billion a year to create 50,000 new and affordable homes. For education it can reinstate the Educational Maintenance Allowance, and on health an extra £4 billion a year could be given to the NHS for the next four years.
These alternative spending choices, with the savings from Trident replacement, are only a fragment of the possibilities open to the government. Cancelling the replacement of Trident will enable Governments well into the future to prioritise the needs of people over the needs of an ineffective nuclear weapons programme that can never be used.
I invite everyone who supports this alternative vision to sign CND’s Stop Trident petition at bit.ly/2zegHyl. There is enormous public opposition to Trident – that opposition is a big majority of the public when people are asked if they would rather spend money for Trident on something else.
The opposition too is now supported internationally with the launch this year of the UN’s nuclear weapons ban treaty, supported by 122 states seeking to abolish all nuclear weapons. It’s time for the government to change direction as a matter of urgency. It’s time for a People not Trident budget.
Kate Hudson is general secretary of CND.