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Nuclear Deterrent

Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 12 July 2006

Q3. Whether his commitment to retain the nuclear deterrent applies beyond the lifespan of the current Trident submarine fleet. (84314)

We made it clear in our 2005 manifesto that we are committed to retaining the independent nuclear deterrent, and that means for the life of the current system. As I have said previously, decisions on the period beyond that will be taken later this year.

The whole House will note that the Prime Minister was a lot less definite than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who talked about retaining the nuclear deterrent not just for this Parliament but long into the future. If the decision is taken to replace the Trident submarine fleet, will any successor fleet be funded from the current defence budget, or will extra funds be allocated from outside that budget?

Any decision on funding has to await later negotiation. Most people understand that a decision on the independent nuclear deterrent is very much sui generis. The reasons why we want to retain the deterrent are set out in our manifesto, and I entirely agree with what the Chancellor said.

Will the Prime Minister assure the House that the Government are committed to the terms of the 1970 non-proliferation treaty, which requires the five declared nuclear weapons states to engage in a process of long-term disarmament? Does he accept that rearmament by any of the five reduces any moral clout we might have in encouraging other states not to develop their own nuclear weapons, which makes the world a more dangerous place?

Actually, we have made considerable reductions both in systems and, I think, in the number of warheads. Of course it is true, if we can negotiate the right terms, that we want progressively over time to see a reduction in nuclear capability worldwide, but that has to be done by negotiation.