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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 September 2006, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Unions oppose replacing Trident
Trident nuclear submarine
A decision on Trident is expected later this year
The trade unions have voted against replacing Britain's nuclear weapons system, saying the money should be ploughed into public services instead.

Delegates at the TUC conference repeatedly attacked Trident.

It came despite the TUC general council calling for more consultation on the issue and warning that jobs could be lost if Trident is not replaced.

Chancellor Gordon Brown has signalled his support for a successor to Trident. A decision is expected later this year.

Hangman analogy

Rail Maritime and Transport union boss Bob Crow led the charge against the weapons system with a motion which branded the idea of replacing Trident as "immoral" and a "scandalous waste of public funds".

Mr Crow likened the chancellor to comedian Tommy Cooper, saying Mr Brown refused extra money for many services and industries but "just like that" could find 25bn for weapons.

It would be hypocritical to go ahead with replacing Trident when the UK was telling Iran and North Korea not to develop nuclear arms, he argued.

A nuclear attack would make the air strikes on the World Trade Center look like "a pimple on your backside", he said.

Mr Crow ridiculed the argument on job cuts, saying: "What about when we used to hang people? We had chief executioners - we had to diversity and find new jobs for them."

Workers could be re-skilled to build hospitals, he argued.

"Why do we want weapons of mass destruction to destroy society when we should be spending money on constructing society?" he asked.

Premature call?

Alan Gibson, from the National Union of Journalists, said nuclear weapons were part of the UK being a "boot boy" of the US and were not a truly independent deterrent.

And Unison's Steve Warwick said nuclear weapons would not help in countering terrorism, but would spread nuclear arms throughout the world.

But Steve Noon, from the Prospect union, which represents workers at atomic weapons centres, said the RMT's motion was an "Alice in Wonderland situation - verdict first, trial later".

He said there should be a full debate before any decisions were made.

Job fears

Harry Donaldson, from the GMB, said his union had not yet debated the issue and was therefore abstaining from the motion.

Mr Donaldson warned that the social fabric of some areas of the UK could be put at risk if plans were not in place for those workers whose jobs would go if Trident was not replaced.

The RMT motion was passed, but so was a statement from the TUC general council calling for a fuller consultation on the issue.

The council reaffirmed the TUC's commitment to world disarmament.

But it said it was concerned about the impact which failure to replace Trident could have on the Ministry of Defence's civilian workforce and manufacturing industry generally.

"Many of these people live and work in remote parts of Britain where there is little alternate employment of this nature," it said.

"Therefore we believe that the issue of diversification to protect the jobs that could be affected by this decision needs to be fully explored, as does the alternative defence initiatives."

The council said it was also concerned by the potential cost of replacing Trident, money which could otherwise be invested in manufacturing, public services and pensions.

It also called for MPs to have a "deciding vote" in Parliament. Commons Leader Jack Straw has already said MPs will have a substantive vote on the issue.

Jack Straw commits to Commons vote on Trident

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