Saturday, December 20, 2008

Disgraceful Sneaky Aldermaston Sell-Off

Arrogant government ministers have put two fingers up to parliament, slipping out the sneaky fire sale of the UK's nuclear bomb factory as a crafty way of boosting treasury coffers and bypassing MPs. 

Opposition MPs are furious over the secret sale which makes a mockery of any claim the UK has an 'independent' nuclear deterrent.

The government is tight-lipped over how much it got for its stake in the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), as news of the sale slipped out just before parliament broke up for the long Christmas hols.

The sale to a US firm was announced in a single one-paragraph statement posted here on the firm's website:

"BNFL is delighted to confirm that it has today agreed the sale of its one third shareholding in AWE Management Limited to the Jacobs Engineering Group".

This underhand behaviour from the government is a disgrace. The fact that something of such strategic importance could happen without a by-your-leave to parliament beggars belief. 

Opposition MPs are furious, accusing the government of burying the sale. And there's anger the UK would no longer control the site where controversial Trident nuclear warheads are produced, maintained and due to be replaced.

The sale means we no longer have any stake in the production of our own Trident nuclear warheads. The other two thirds of AWE were already in private hands, split between American defence giant, Lockheed Martin and the UK firm, Serco.

There are concerns too that this was a knock-down sale at below the market price and is the thin end of the wedge, as the government steams ahead with sell-off sales to claw-back some cash in the face of a recession borrowing binge.

Other state assets ear-marked for quickie sales include Ordnance Survey, Met Office  and Forestry Commission. 

As with the planned part-privatisation of Royal Mail, these sales have the paw prints of deputy prime minister, Mandleson, all over them.

And, like the sale of Royal Mail, the whole issue of back-door privatisation and indeed the hugely expensive and morally corrupt Trident missile programme are dear to the hearts of the Orange Party and many backbench Labour MPs and trade unions.

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