30 MAY 2011
By Rob Edwards | Herald Scotland
THE running of Britain’s nuclear bomb base at Coulport on the Clyde is to be handed over to a consortium of multinational private firms led by the controversial US arms dealer, Lockheed Martin, the Sunday Herald can reveal.
Defence ministers in Westminster have decided that the highly sensitive job of managing more than 200 Trident nuclear warheads, and arming the Royal Navy’s submarines with them, should be taken over by the group of companies within the next year.
The decision has been condemned by the SNP, trades unionists and disarmament campaigners, who are demanding an urgent rethink. They describe it as a cost-saving, job-cutting “kick in the teeth to the workforce” that will put nuclear safety at risk.
Up to 200 Coulport workers have been told that they will be seconded from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to a newly formed private-sector consortium called ABL.
ABL brings together AWE – which runs the Aldermaston nuclear weapons factory in Berkshire – Babcock, the British engineering company and US-owned Lockheed Martin Strategic Systems UK. AWE is itself a consortium involving Lockheed Martin; another big US firm, Jacobs Engineering; and the UK management privatisation company, Serco.
According to the MoD’s detailed internal plan leaked to the Sunday Herald, ABL will be granted a contract to run Coulport for 15 years.
The MoD’s timetable is for the contract to be finalised in August, and for ABL to take over Coulport in February 2012. Some 160 MoD scientists and technicians responsible for “strategic weapons support” will be transferred to ABL, plus up to 40 Royal Navy jobs.
Defence ministers rejected an alternative plan to keep Coulport in the public sector but improve its management. Outsourcing to ABL, they decided, “offered the best value for money”.
Angus Robertson, the SNP’s defence spokesman and the party’s leader in Westminster, attacked the decision as “highly questionable” last night.
“Weapons of mass destruction are the most sensitive areas of military technology and should not be put in private hands,” he said.
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