CANCEL Trident and increase health spending instead, MPs have been told by campaigners after proposed changes to the scrutiny of nuclear funding were branded “toothless”.

Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (SCND) have criticised the proposal for a new committee of MPs to scrutinise spending on nuclear deterrents and the UK’s special forces.

The Commons’ existing spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), told ministers a new panel should be established to scrutinise spending in sensitive areas.

However, SCND have said the UK Government has historically overspent on nuclear deterrents, and they should cancel Trident to focus more on health, welfare and education rather than introduce more committees.

READ MORE: SNP back signing TPNW nuclear ban treaty post-independence

Isobel Lindsay, vice chair of SCND, said: "The Ministry of Defence has been notorious for excess expenditure on its projects and that has been notably so in relation to the Trident programme and its new generation replacement.

“A toothless panel will not change this because the arms manufacturers have the upper hand.

“At a time when there is a desperate need for increased expenditure on core public services, the real answer is to cancel Trident replacement and spend the money on health and welfare and education."

The National:

David Cullen, the director of Nuclear Information Service (NIS), said the costs for nuclear deterrents have been “poorly managed” and are “totally unsustainable”.

Cullen echoed the SCND response, calling for greater transparency when it comes to committees.

He said: "We have been calling for greater oversight of spending in the nuclear weapons programme for several years, along with many others, both supporters of nuclear weapons and opponents.

“The cost increases and poor management that we have seen are totally unsustainable.

“For too long these unacceptable practices have been allowed to fester behind appeals to secrecy and the byzantine way that the programme is structured.

“The only way forward is for parliament to put in place detailed, transparent and democratically accountable scrutiny by a truly independent body, otherwise these problems will continue."

READ MORE: Nuclear ban treaty a 'golden key' in post-independence talks with UK

PAC has warned there were “scrutiny gaps” where secret projects were not examined by existing panels of MPs and peers.

The proposed committee by PAC could use private evidence sessions and correspondence to examine how billions of pounds are spent on highly classified projects.

The PAC said the Ministry of Defence’s annual update on the nuclear enterprise, which includes all the programmes, organisations, and people that sustain the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent, contained “little detail” given the scale of the project.

The watchdog said the new select committee should have a “specific remit to consider sound financial practice and value for money” in sensitive areas which are outside the remit of the statutory Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “Our nuclear deterrent continues to be the cornerstone of the UK’s national security, while our special forces conduct high-risk operations that help to keep us all safe – both of which require the highest levels of discretion and are accountable to Parliament.

“We recently outlined the full scale of the defence nuclear enterprise’s work, including how we will deliver the programmes necessary to strengthen our nuclear deterrent, supporting tens of thousands of UK jobs in the process and ensuring value for money for the taxpayer.”