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Ministry of Defence takes back control of UK’s nuclear weapons contract

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The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has informed contractor Serco that it will take back control of the UK’s nuclear weapon warheads in June 2021.

The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) is currently being run by a consortium of Serco, Lockheed Martin and Jacobs Engineering.

The AWE was originally outsourced in 1999 under a 25 year contract, but the MoD has given little indication as to why it ended the agreement early.

In a statement it said the move will enhance “the MoD’s agility in the future management of the UK’s nuclear deterrent, whilst also delivering on core MoD objectives and value for money to the taxpayer.”

It added that the decision will help to “simplify and further strengthen the relationship between the MoD and AWE”.

Serco is one of the UK’s largest contractors for public services, with most of its revenue generated by government contracts.

Its profits have surged in 2020 following ramped-up public spending due to the coronavirus pandemic. It runs the UK’s test and trace programme which has been heavily criticised for failing to reach as many contacts as local public health counterparts have managed.

The Government has also been accused of awarding Serco a £57m contract to run Covid-testing centres across the UK without opening it up to competitive tender.

Serco said it was “proud to have been involved with AWE for the last 20 years, and will work with the other shareholders and the Ministry of Defence to ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements.”

The MoD said it “recognises the achievements of everyone involved with AWE and thank AWE ML and its shareholders for their support in stewarding the organisation through crucial phases of delivery and planning.”

The MoD has been contacted to provide further explanation for the reasons behind the early termination of the contract for which this article will be updated when a response has been received.

Rising superpowers including India, China and Pakistan have been increasing their nuclear weapons stockpiles in recent years.

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