THE government will take control of a nuclear weapons manufacturer in Aldermaston.

AWE, which also has a site in Burghfield, is to be taken over by ministers to "simplify and further strengthen" the relationship between the operator and the Ministry of Defence.

It means that Lockheed Martin, which owns 51 per cent of AWE Management Ltd, and Serco, which owns 24.5 per cent, will be stripped of their control of the base when the lucrative 25-year contract comes to an end, with Sky News reporting that it could be as soon as next year.

The government said that the decision has followed an "in-depth review" and means that AWE plc will become an "Arms-Length Body, wholly owned by the MoD".

"The change in model will remove the current commercial arrangements, enhancing 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," a ministerial statement released by the MoD stated on Monday.

AWE manufactures warheads for the UK's nuclear deterrent Trident.

The MoD first triggered a clause to consider "alternative viable management options" back in July 2019, ahead of the expiration of the current contract.

The statement continued: "The MoD 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."

In a statement AWE plc said: "The Ministry of Defence has announced that AWE plc will transfer to government ownership, becoming an Arms-Length Body wholly owned by the MoD.

"AWE plc will work closely with our MoD colleagues and AWE Management Limited to ensure a smooth transition. Our primary focus will be on the continued safe and secure operation of our sites, as we maintain progress on our critical programme."

Sky News reported at the weekend how a source close to the AWE deal said the decision "bore the fingerprints" of Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson's most senior aide, who has put pressure on the MoD to curb wasteful spending.